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Goals, Rainbows and Gold

02/19/2015 11:57 am ET | Updated Apr 21, 2015
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People usually set goals because they want the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is awesome, and pots of gold are too. But the problem with only focusing on having that pot of gold is that you completely miss the rainbow you followed to get there.

Not only did you miss the rainbow -- aka, the journey, once you've gotten your pot of gold, then what?

On to the next pot I guess. Only this time, it needs to be a bigger pot, a shiner pot, in order for you to feel as fulfilled as you did when you got that first pot of gold. A bigger goal to satisfy your inner goal junkie.

As cool as this would be to actually have pots of gold, does this actually make us happy? Would it really create a sense of purpose and fulfillment? We only need to look at Hollywood's rich and famous to know that an abundance of wealth (even when coupled with an abundance of adoring fans) is no guarantee for happiness.

Of course, being poor doesn't make you happy either, but the point here isn't to talk about having a real pot of gold, it's simply a metaphor for reaching whatever goal we are striving to achieve.

But here's the thing: We dream about having that pot of gold, being in that dream job or having that ideal relationship, because of how we think we will FEEL as a result of having that thing or living that life.

Yet have you ever reached a goal and felt great for a few days, maybe even a few weeks, but sooner or later you end up feeling a little empty, or lacking direction?

This is probably due to one of two reasons; your focus was all about reaching the end game, not about the journey you took to achieve your goal, and secondly, you didn't actually want the goal itself, you wanted the lifestyle, or more accurately, you wanted the feelings that you thought would come with having that goal.

In other words, you were looking for something external, be it a bank balance, a spouse, or a championship title, to feel fulfilled. But of course, true happiness and fulfillment can never come from something outside of you. It has to come from within.

So what does this mean? How can we leverage this insight to create goals that serve us in more than just a superficial way? How can we set goals that allow us to know ourselves more intimately and to create a deeper sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction?

I'm going to use my recent goal of wanting to become a boxing champ to illustrate.

On the surface, this boxing goal looks like it's purely ego driven- a need to be the best. It is a goal fueled by competition, comparing myself to all the other females in my weight division and working to be better than them. Not just to be good, but the best. That's all ego, right? To dominate. To compare. To conquer.

Whilst that is the end goal, it's actually THE JOURNEY that I'm most interested in.

What type of person must I become in order to become the best? What new skills must I develop? What dedication and commitment must I display, ongoing, to transition from crap to being able to master the techniques I need? What fears must I overcome? What new depths of courage must I reach? What doubts must I learn to silence? What beliefs must I instill within my heart and at my very core?

This process is the real reward. The boxing title, if it comes, will simply be confirmation that I have reached these stepping stones along the journey.

The determination, the wanting, the chasing, the learning, the growing, the pushing, the doubting, the believing, the training, the sweating, the burning, the yearning, the friendships forged, the battles fought, the sacrifices made. The daring to want. The knowing of self. These are the real rewards.

When you know this to be true, the rainbow is no longer the means to an end. Instead, the rainbow becomes your pot of gold. And you can revel in that rainbow, every step of the way.

The pot of gold at the end is just a bonus.

This article was originally posted on Pimp My Zen, a blog about Urban Enlightenment.