“I’m getting an education so that if my husband ever dies or leaves me, I can provide for myself.”
“I have to get good grades or my parents will kill me.”
“I’m working a lot because I’m terrified of being poor.”
“I’m working out so I can lose weight and get asked out more.”
Do any of these sound familiar? I’ll admit I have said most of these, even if just to myself. Now, getting an education, getting good grades, working and exercising are all positive things, but all of these thoughts make them sound like a drag. What if we rephrased them?
“I’m getting an education because I feel confident knowing that I can provide for my family.”
“I want to do well in school to open more opportunities for my future.”
“I’m taking steps now to ensure financial security and live the life I want.”
“I exercise and take care of my body because it feels good, I love being strong, and I want to be that old lady in spin class kicking all the college kids’ butts.”
Call me crazy, but those just feel better! Probably because we shifted the motivation for those goals from a place of fear to a place of power. Why on earth would we make huge life decisions and goals based on what we’re scared of, rather than on our dreams? We all do it to some extent.
I didn’t always recognize that this was what I was doing. What helped me realize it was dating. Lame, I know, but it’s true. My father was an abusive person, and I vowed I would never be with someone like him. I remember going on dates with guys and thinking, “I don’t think I could date him. He’s so buff that if he ever hit me, I’d be out cold.” and “Would I be able to outrun him if I needed to?” Frequently the thought came to mind that, “Well, he doesn’t make me laugh as much as _______ did, but that’s okay if he never abuses our kids.” Sad, right?
Somewhere along the way it hit me that I was so caught up in what I was scared of that I couldn’t see past any problems, big or small. A man I respected very honestly said to me, “Katie, every man you meet will be like your dad in some way because they’re all men. There will be something.” It was hard to hear, but the truth. Focusing on what I didn’t want got in the way of me understanding what I did want and seeing those things in the people I dated. My thoughts shifted from “I’m not a bad person and I want to avoid marrying a bad person at all costs” to “I’m a good person and I want to be with someone who continues to bring joy into my life.” And it changed everything. My marriage isn’t perfect and our life isn’t perfect, but we’re more focused on what we’re creating rather than what we’re avoiding.
You’re here reading an article about goals, so I’m confident in saying that you have many. Take a minute and think about some of them. No, they don’t have to be about relationships. Then, think about why you set them. Be honest–are they a result of fear? Probably not all of them, but likely some.
Now, as you look at the ones with fear-based motivation, think about some positive dream-achieving motivators for each of them. There are probably lots of good reasons to pursue your goals. For example, let’s look at one of mine:
If I’m focused on the fear-based reason, it kind of takes the thrill out of achieving that goal. My husband might leave me, but I’ll be ok! Yipee? If I’m looking at the multiple reasons that excite me for my future, then every positive step forward is a mini-celebration of those things instead of again focusing on what I’m scared of. Plus, it becomes a lot easier to sacrifice my desire to be lazy once my daughter is asleep in order to reach that goal. Makes sense, right?
Seriously, try it. Sit down and think about your goals and actively re-word your motivations to a place of power. You’ll have to keep reminding yourself of them until those fear-based motivators aren’t at the top of your list of reasons to do what you’re doing. I still have to remind myself with my goals all.the.time. But when I do, I become more creative in my problem solving, understanding of myself and others, and feel more capable to reach my goals. You will too.