Whatever goal you set, there will be some sacrifice involved – particularly if it’s a new or challenging pursuit. The more ambitious the goal, the larger the sacrifice. And through it all, you will be building a more meaningful, fulfilling life for yourself.
However, there is a fine line between striving and strife.
Between effectively pushing yourself and burning out, sacrificing enough and sacrificing too much. Between becoming more fulfilled and less fulfilled. And it’s not always easy to spot.
When it doesn’t go as planned
For instance, your goal may be to: Run three miles a day. You love running and figure that doing that amount daily will lead to more fulfillment in your life. So you start running and everything is great. You’re smiley, happy, the whole deal.
After a few weeks pass though, after the goal is no longer new and shiny, the appeal has worn off.
Now, you dread your runs. You question why you ever set that goal and contemplate giving it up altogether. You had set out with good intentions, to add more fulfillment to your life, and yet it’s resulting in less.
Realizing my error
I recently experienced a version of this scenario in my own life. I was pushing and striving and sacrificing. But ultimately, it was leading me to burnout, not purpose. The particular goal was a 24/7 type of deal.
Every single day. No breaks.
When I took a moment to think of why it was becoming so torturous, I realized that very few of my goals require a 365-day commitment.
The large majority of them have some form of break baked into them. And for the ones that are daily, they are light on time commitment and require minimal effort (ie. thinking of what I’m grateful for, five minutes each day).
Fixing the problem
With this particular goal though, it required a large commitment – both physically and mentally.
A commitment that day after day, week after week, started to press down on me, causing stress and fatigue. Until, over this past weekend, I had a realization: This goal is taking away my fulfillment instead of adding to it.
So, I changed it. I built in a break.
The goal, by the way, was: Consume ten or fewer grams of net carbohydrates a day, seven days a week. And now? Well, as of this writing, I’ve modified it from seven days a week to six.
Not a massive change, but one that I hope will put the scales of strive and strife back into balance.
Striving is fine, strife is not
There is this idea that whatever your goal is, there should be a struggle.
There should be “blood, sweat, and tears.” I disagree. The goals you pursue should be ones that add fulfillment to your life. Should give you meaning and purpose.
Your goal to read one book a month should add to your life, not diminish it. Your goal to dance for 30 minutes every other day should result in increased fulfillment, not lack thereof. When the goal begins to feel like a struggle, that’s a sign that a change is needed.
When you don’t feel like doing it, take extended periods off from it, or even dread it altogether, it’s time for an adjustment.
Should you quit? Or alter it?
If you like the goal but find that it is too much (too tiring, challenging, painful, etc.), fix it. In the case of the above running example, you could change it to something like:
- Run one mile each day
- Run three miles every other day
- Or run four miles each week
If the goal has the potential to add fulfillment to your life but is currently more strife than strive, change it. Make it more manageable. Pushing yourself can be a fun thing, but when it gets to the point where you start to break, you’ve gone too far.
My thought process
Looking at my goal once again, seven days a week felt like too much so I changed it to six.
Is six the right answer? Time will tell. Maybe the right amount of days is five, or four, or three. Or, maybe, with practice, seven days is where I’ll find myself once again. What matters is that I:
- Recognize that I like this goal
- See that there are fulfilling aspects to it
- But understand that I’m burning out at the current pace
And from that, I’m able to make a change. And I’ll keep making changes until I find the right fit.
Moving forward with fulfilling goals
Looking at your own goals, are you managing the line between strive and strife? Are you building a more fulfilling life for yourself? Or are you growing ever-more exhausted from the pursuit of too-ambitious aims?
If you find yourself in that last camp, make a change. Build in breaks, bring things down a level, consider sustainability.
You only do yourself a disservice from quitting. So instead, make the goal work for you. Keep adjusting it until you find that right fit.