When I was in my twenties, I made a vision board of all the goals I aimed to accomplish before turning thirty. I knew exactly what I wanted, and though somewhat far-fetched, nothing would keep me from accomplishing my dreams.
Except, then life happened.
A few stints of unemployment and dead-end jobs later made me feel like a failure for not living up to my goals. Maybe I hadn’t done my part in visualizing enough? Or maybe this was all part of the process?
As it turns out, studies have shown that overly-focusing on our goals can backfire on us, and make it less likely for us to succeed. The reason for this comes down to fantasizing versus the effort that goes into accomplishing our goals. In my case, I thought that if I could just imagine myself as successful, this alone would attract my desired outcome. I was more focused on the end-result rather than the small daily steps I could take to make my goals a reality.
But I was also stuck on the idea that I needed to become this idealized version I had dreamt up as a twenty-something-year-old. I didn’t give myself the permission to change course because it meant failing my past self. And this only created a negative feedback-loop where I was criticizing (and therefore undermining) all of my efforts.
It’s Okay for Your Dreams to Shift
When it became apparent that I wasn’t going to become that famous film director I had previously envisioned, I began paying attention to the things I’d always been passionate about since I was a child: telling stories.
Now as a freelance journalist, I’ve allowed myself to explore goals where I’m no longer the center-focus. Part of this means writing about topics that matter on a larger scale, so that I can give back and be of service to others.
Overall, I’ve learned that we’re much more expansive than we allow ourselves to be. As we grow and evolve, so do our values and priorities. More often than not, we’ve placed ourselves in some pre-set box, not allowing ourselves to be happy until we’ve ticked off items on our list of “goals.” But in order to grant ourselves permission to change, we have to step aside from our self-imposed limitations and really see ourselves: imperfections and all.
Once we do that, we won’t need a vision board to tell us who we are.