After Achieving Your Goals, Now What? Two Crucial Lessons

Why You May Get a Let-Down Feeling After Achieving Your Goals

Have you ever reached your goals and found yourself at a new beginning, wondering, what next? This is an article I wrote about the time when I was just beginning to find my way through life — finding the goals that mattered to me. Today, much later in my life, I’m at a new beginning. I did find goals that mattered to me and achieved them — and had a great time doing it. I built and sold an exciting and successful business. I wrote a blog and published a book.

I met and married a man who was the completion of my life’s goals and dreams. For nearly ten years we had the kind of love and marriage they write songs about. “I love us!” is how Ron put it.

Even then I had goals. They weren’t world-changing, but they mattered to me — to surprise Ron, to write a funny story to make him laugh, to learn something new I could share with him, and finally, to keep him safe as long as I could.

In March, Ron died. And here I am, alive, frozen — my only goal being to get through the day. Will I find other goals that matter to me? Will I come to see that I’m not at the end of a road but at an intersection of roads that keep going… somewhere.

Did you ever have a goal that you went after with all your might? Achieving your goals was so all-consuming that you never thought about what would happen next? Then it’s done and…now what? I did. I had a big goal and I expected to be on a permanent high when I reached it. It was a tough day for me when that didn’t happen. I stood looking at the goal I finally reached and felt loss. I suddenly realized I was without direction for the first time in years.

From the time I was barely able to understand what Daddy was laying out for my future in clear, southern English: “You’re gonna get yourself off Petain Street, get you an education, and be somebody.”

That goal was clear enough and I had to accomplish it.

Trainers and motivational speakers, such as Michael Hyatt, all agree that the first step to achieving whatever you want is to write down your goal and commit to it. “Get my education!” It was not actually written down, but it was as clear in my mind as words chiseled in Alabama marble. Having that did all that Mr. Hyatt’s article said it would do for me. It gave me clarity, motivated me, helped me overcome resistance, let me see my progress, and stay on track.

Then, three and a half years later, I was there. I’d gotten off of Petain Street, gone to the University of Georgia, and knocked every distraction out of my way to reach it. Finally, there I was, wearing a heavy black robe and sitting in the unairconditioned coliseum in Athens, Georgia in August. The President of Brandeis University was talking o and on, talking at us, kids graduating from our protest-everything-hippy-student phase to begin our trek to becoming the future BMW-driving yuppies. He droned on, telling us what we believed. For my part, he was wrong. What I believed was that I was hot and bored – and scared.

A passing train’s shrill whistle momentarily drowned out his voice and reminded me I should be doing something, going somewhere. I had to become somebody. That need hung on me like a weight. I had to make it happen, but I didn’t know how. Daddy had just said to be somebody. He had never told me Somebody Who. I learned a hard lesson but one that I needed to learn.

One woman before an intersection.

Acheiving the goal is not at the end of the road, but at an intersection of roads that keep going somewhere

The goal is not at the end of the road, but at an intersection of roads that keep going… somewhere.

I knew there had to be roads, but either I couldn’t see them or they seemed impassable for me. I didn’t know what I could do with what I had, a liberal arts degree and a teaching certificate that I did not want to use. Depressed, I did the only thing I emotionally prepared myself to do. I went to bed. And I stayed there for two weeks – until my parents did an intervention, made me get up and find the next step, a job. In desperation, I took a job teaching. It solved my job goal and gave me the relief and security that I again had a clear goal: to succeed as a teacher. By then I knew that reaching goals was not an ending, but a beginning. I kept trying to figure out my next step, my next goal.

I found my next step in Washington D.C. where I discovered the staffing business. It provided me with plenty of goals, an unending stream of them to reach as I climbed higher and higher. But I still had erroneous expectations. As I worked toward my first major business goal, I expected the experience to be nothing like my graduation. Wrong! The exhilaration of accomplishment was over in a minute. Then came the let-down, a feeling of loss. With one thing over, I had to start the next. It was another important lesson.

Reaching the goal is not where the fun is. The fun is in the race.

The fun is in finding that next right step that takes you inches closer. It’s in closing in on the win. The secret to continued excitement and success is to always have your next goal waiting and ready to go.

  • Have you ever had that sinking, let-down feeling after achieving a goal?
  • Have you ever struggled to find the next right step and realized you weren’t even sure in what direction?
March 22, 2017