Reaching for the stars could be making you miserable – here's what to do instead

We’ve long been told that we should chase our dreams, push ourselves out of our comfort zones, and place achieving our goals above all else.

But what if that approach is making us unhappy?

Constantly reaching for the stars makes you anxious, miserable, and unable to actually act, says Anna Tomkins, founder of Handbook For Today.

She believes that having undefined big goals can cause us a constant stress to achieve, that ‘actually paralyses us instead of being an accelerator for our action’.

‘You could also call it FOMOGA, fear of missing out on goal achieving,’ Anna tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Reaching for the stars is well-meant advice to not settle with a life that you might find boring or frustrating.

‘However, we often don’t even know what this big life goal is and this might make us anxious.

‘While there is nothing wrong with wanting a lot for yourself, you need to start with self-care and tackle your worries first, step by step.’

Makes sense to us. But what does that actually look like? How can we avoid FOMOGA, but still achieve – and be happier as a result?

Anna has some suggestions.

Express gratitude for what you have

‘One step to being more ready for working on a goal is appreciating what is great in our lives and what we have achieved already,’ says Anna.

Take a moment to appreciate what you’ve accomplished so far, and reflect on whether this is making you happy.

Do you genuinely want something more, or do you just feel a strange pressure to always be moving on to the next big thing?

Ask yourself why you want to achieve a goal

Get real with yourself about why you want to tick off certain things on your lifetime to-do list.

Do you really enjoy writing so much that you want to publish a book? Or are you just keen to have that ‘author’ label so you can impress people you don’t really know or care about online?

‘It will be easier to achieve anything when you have a clear view on why you want to achieve a certain goal,’ Anna tells us. ‘It takes great honesty to admit that some big goals are not so much set to make us feel great about the outcome, but the hope impressing other people.

‘Often we are looking for happiness, not goal achievement and if our happiness lies in the small things, that is totally fine.’

Once you get into why you want to do certain things, you can start letting go of those big goals that, on reflection, won’t actually make you happy.

Don’t let ‘gravity problems’ overwhelm you

Is your big goal a little too big?

‘A big goal can be daunting and, once you found out why you want to work on it (it aligns with your values) and found small steps to make a start, it still might fall into the category of “gravity problem”,’ explains Anna. ‘What’s a gravity problem? A problem you will come across that is too hard for an individual to overcome in their lifetime (it’s like wanting to change a law of physics, like gravity).

‘If your goal is something huge and world-changing, it might just be too big to tackle. When setting any goal, think if you can realistically achieve it.’

Set yourself some attainable targets

Anna says: ‘You might have come across the term of SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based).

‘While all these attributes are helpful for goal-setting, being attainable might be the one reason that gets us started on a specific goal.

‘To get started is the most important bit, followed by all the tiny steps that lead us to achieve the bigger goal. Start with something you know you can do and then add those small steps.’

Stop beating yourself up

If you’re using your goals – and your struggle to achieve them – as a stick with which to beat yourself, you’ll never get anything done… or feel good when you do tick tasks off.

Self-compassion and self-care is vital at all stages. Letting your inner monologue run wild with criticism helps no one.

‘Checking in with our needs and worries plays an important part in goal achieving as worries can make us feel paralysed (the opposite of the healthy productivity we are looking for),’ notes Anna.

‘Having a set of mental health tools that help us along the way (like journaling or keeping track of positive habits) makes it easier to focus on whatever the goal is we want to achieve in a day.’

Anna is author and co-founder of Handbook For Today: Your Well-being And Personal Growth Journal.

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