I was chatting to Daryl from Poker Vagabond recently about goals and he said something that got me thinking.

He said that he wants to work hard enough to achieve his goals – no more and no less.

It makes sense – it’s probably what most of us are aiming for. Why work more than we need to?

In practice, however, it’s easier said than done.

There’s two sides of the coin – not working hard enough to achieve your goals and working too hard.

Most of the content currently on Find A Spark is aimed at addressing the first issue – how to get inspired, motivated and organised enough to work hard enough to achieve your goals.

The second issue, however, can be just as difficult to deal with.


Identifying unwanted goals

Since speaking with Daryl I’ve thought a lot about the second issue and identified the biggest reason that I’ve struggled with it.

I have unwanted goals.

These unwanted goals exist alongside my actual goals that I’ve decided on and written down. My aim, of course, is to work hard enough to achieve my actual goals – no more, no less.

But I often find myself feeling guilty if I don’t work harder and ultimately end up sacrificing free time to work that little bit harder and make that little bit more progress towards my goals.

In theory this could be great – I achieve my goals more quickly! But clearly it’s not that simple – I’m sacrificing my free time when I don’t need to! Free time is sacred – why do I find myself giving it away so easily? Especially when I don’t need to do it – I’m on track for my goals already.

This is where the unwanted goals come in.

I’ve made enough progress that day / week / month to keep on track with my actual goals but not enough for the unwanted goals.

What are the unwanted goals? For me, they’re things like earn enough money to be considered successful and work hard enough to ‘deserve’ success.

They’re those anxious gremlins that linger in my subconscious. I haven’t made enough progress towards them because they aren’t quantifiable. No amount of work will ever feel like enough.

The existence of those gremlins certainly wasn’t news to me – I knew they were there and I certainly didn’t expect to be rid of them any time soon.

The really helpful thing for me was to acknowledge them and name them – they are unwanted goals. When I feel the urge to sacrifice free time, I ask myself whether this is necessary to achieve my actual goals or my unwanted goals.

If I figure out that it’s an unwanted goal that’s driving the urge, it’s a lot easier to put my work down and chill out. The anxieties still exist, but at least I can acknowledge that I’ve done myself justice for that day.

So that’s it – identify your actual goals and your unwanted goals. Aim to work hard enough to achieve your actual goals.

This is something that I’ve got a long way to go with and I would love to hear your tips / suggestions / feedback in the comments!

UPDATE: Since writing this post I’ve had some further thoughts on happiness and wellbeing.


Useful links

As I mentioned above, it was Daryl at Poker Vagabond that got me thinking about this topic. Check out his blog for posts on poker, travel, music and self-improvement, amongst other things! 

Also published on Medium.