As humans, one of our Universal Needs is the need for growth. We are intrinsically motivated to seek a “better” life for ourselves. Since the dawn of time, we have invented things to improve our daily experience (stone tools all the way to Siri) and are always on a quest for more.
A lack of growth leads us to feel stuck or even trapped in life.
So, to satisfy our need for growth, we set goals and pursue them with a vengeance.
For me, like so many other women in our body-shaming culture, one of the goals I frantically pursued was weight loss. I devoted everything I had to losing weight and making sure my body was a certain size.
Eventually, through lots of unhealthy restriction and exercising like a mad woman, I ended up losing almost 100lbs and achieving my weight watchers goal weight.
But, something really weird happened.
I hated my body even more than I did before.
This was a shocking moment for me. I couldn’t really understand what had gone wrong.
I had achieved my goal but I still wasn’t happy.
This is an all-too-common experience in our culture.
For you, maybe it isn’t related to your weight but maybe it’s the dream degree and career, or making a certain amount of money, or driving a certain car.
It can feel pretty devastating when we invest all of our energy into pursuing something only to discover that it wasn’t the secret to happiness after all.
If you can relate, I want to let you in on a little secret (or perhaps help prevent you from making this mistake):
You’re probably chasing someone else’s dream.
And here’s the thing:
When you choose your goals based on what other people need and value, you will never get the satisfaction that comes from obtaining the goal because the goal isn’t really yours!
Instead, it will feel like you are spinning your wheels, doing what you are “supposed to do” but never really getting anywhere. Or it might feel like you “have everything” but don’t feel happy.
To feel satisfied by our accomplishments, we must choose our goals and intentions based on our own needs and values, instead of everyone else’s.
No matter whether you are struggling with the size of your body, making peace with money, or focused on creating satisfying relationships, you start by taking an honest look at your needs.
Once you understand your needs, you can begin to set goals that actually feel soul-level satisfying to achieve.
As an example of what I mean, I’ll walk through it with the Universal Need for Belonging.
Many of the women I have encountered don’t have a lot of experiences of true belonging.
They are trying to “belong” by people-pleasing, taking care of others to the point of utter exhaustion and even health issues, or doing whatever it takes to “fit in” with a certain crowd.
But fitting in and belonging aren’t the same thing. In the wise words of Brene Brown:
Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.
So, let’s say that in an attempt to “fit in” with your friends, you start the same diet that your friends are on.
You exchange recipes, you become “accountable” by checking in with your weight loss, and you go to the gym together to trudge on the treadmill. Somewhere along the way, though, you realize that this diet just isn’t for you. Perhaps you are ready to stop fighting food all-together.
And when you share this with your diet-loving friends, they start leaving you out of the loop, stop calling, or in the worst of scenarios, go all mean girl on you.
In that circle, you fit in while you did what the group was doing but you didn’t belong. If you belonged, they wouldn’t have dropped you like a hot potato!
Your GOAL of weight loss (via the diet the group was doing) was never able to the diet satisfy your need for belonging. Because true belonging has only ONE requirement:
That you are accepted for who you actually are!
So, with that understanding, you can now set (and go after) more fulfilling goals.
For example, you might set a goal to take 4 classes per year that are filled with like-hearted people and when you show up for those classes, you show up as yourself instead of “scanning” to figure out what the group expects from you. You might also set a goal to do 20 minutes of self-acceptance practice each day, which will help you “belong” to yourself.
When you accept yourself and are in relationships with people who truly accept you, your need for belonging is met in a much more satisfying way.
This is true no matter what the needs are. Build your goals around what you actually need and when you achieve them, you will be much more satisfied in the long run.