Nobody truly understands the path to success. Even successful people can’t completely explain how they were able to achieve their success. Even if they do understand it, their path is significantly different than your path. The result is that you feel confused and lost when you try to duplicate their path when achieving your success.
I say that as a disclaimer and a general opinion about how I view success. Successful role models are useful, but you must know when and where to follow their recommendations. Once you acknowledge that each one of us is responsible to find our unique path, then we can begin the work necessary to gain clarity about achieving success in our lives.
I don’t understand the path to success either, but I have identified one item that can prevent you from achieving success. When you aren’t aware of this item, you can get trapped into struggling to achieve your goal when it can be achieved smoothly. It’s important to know this item so that you can dissolve it and increase your chances of gaining the success you desire.
The item I am talking about are meta-goals, also known as secondary goals.
What Are Meta-Goals?
When you are trying to achieve one goal, often you automatically create a second goal you also want to achieve. This second goal is not related directly to the first goal, but it affects whether you can or can’t achieve your main goal. A simple way to describe this relationship is you want to achieve a goal, and you want to achieve it a certain way.
A simple example is you want to make an extra $1,000 per month income, but you don’t want to work too hard to achieve it. Depending on the path, you may be able to score that amount of extra income while not working more than you like, but often times you must work harder than you thought, right?
What happens when you realize that the path to an extra income requires more work than you like? There’s a possibility you don’t work as much as it requires, you work only as much as you want. The meta-goal of not working too much becomes more important than actually banking an extra grand.
Another example that comes to my mind though I don’t remember the source is a woman who falls sick with a terminal illness. She has the goal of getting healthy again, but she feels her family and friends pay more attention to her than when she was healthy. The secondary goal of having people care about her becomes more important than being healthy again.
You can see that in both scenarios, the meta-goal defeats the primary goal. The result is that you get the meta-goal of relaxed work or family attention, but you wonder why you’re not making the money you want or returning to good health.
How Meta-Goals Prevent Your Success
The most common shape of meta-goal is related to your self image, or how you want to see your self. The necessity to see your self in a good image is caused by your brain that seeks confirmation you are already a likable person.
I don’t yet know why our brain needs to confirm we are likable, but I have often seen the effect of it. In the first scenario above, you want to confirm that you can achieve a goal easily and without much effort to shape the image that you are a “genius” who can get things done effortlessly. In the second scenario, the woman wants to confirm that she is worthy of love, and she is afraid that love will stop if she were to become healthy again.
Confirming that you are a likable person often comes at the cost of your main goal. You can receive praise, acknowledgment, and perhaps even awards, but they don’t necessarily help you achieve your primary goal. The real path to your success may require you to go against the approval of people who are important to you, and even be punished for taking that path. But if that is what it takes to reach success, then that is what it takes.
Meta-goals prevent your success because you end up directing your resources to achieve these goals instead of your primary goal. In some cases, if you’re lucky you might achieve both goals at once. However, in most cases meta-goals absorb your resources so that you have a little or none left to achieve your true goal.
These goals also conflict in your mind, and you end up procrastinating and delaying work that needs to be done, or you freeze and do nothing because you’re not sure on what you should do. You become confused and you spend energy trying to figure out why you are confused. Such conflict drains you of energy that you need to obtain your main goal.
A Future Without Meta-Goals?
Now that you know meta-goals and how they prevent you from being successful, imagine a future where you aren’t controlled by these meta-goals. What would be different in your life at that time?
The process of identifying and admitting you have meta-goals may not be easy. You go against the natural habit of the brain to seek confirmation that you are likable. But if you can dissolve that necessity to seek confirmation, then you can eliminate the conflicting goals and minimize struggle.
The challenge after that would be the navigation of your path to success, that only you can find.