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Is Goal Replacement One of Your Goals?

It is that time of year. Resolutions and promises abound. Sometimes it feels like setting New Year goals is such an arbitrary matter, but I assure you it isn’t. They are important for our mental and emotional development.  However, goal replacement is just as important as goal setting.

A few years back, when I was getting ready to graduate with my Masters in Business (one of my personal goals), I read about the importance of goal replacement.  One of the interesting psychological shifts that often happens when you reach a goal is depression – although I know that sounds strange.

Lauren MacEwen Smith College Graduation

Graduating was one of the first truly significant goals I achieved. What replaced it?

The first time: I experienced this when I finished my first book (no, I never published it and never will).  I was so proud of myself to have finished it, but now I had nothing to work toward. I was actually depressed about finishing my book. What amazed me was that the depressed feeling overshadowed the proud feeling.

The second time: The next most memorable experience of this was when I graduated from Smith College. I enrolled at Smith when I was 18. but I took a non-traditional path through college, taking 5 years off in the middle of my schooling. So when I returned to school, graduating was a huge goal. I was so excited when I walked across that stage and got the diploma; I was an official Smith College Alumnae! And I was profoundly sad to be done.

The third time: I was graduating with my Masters in Business.  If you can believe it, I was sad because I knew that my formal education was done.  No more classes. No more finals. No more group projects or papers. My degree-based education was over, unless I wanted to get a law degree (which I didn’t want to do).  However this time was different, this time my depression was fleeting because I had a new goal. Plus, I still take classes now to brush up on other skills, and because I love learning.

Goal replacement is hugely significant for our psychological development.  Goals are not just something to work toward, they give us focus and drive.  When you finally meet a goal, take a moment to revel in your accomplishment. Then replace that goal with a new one as quickly as possible.  Make sure that you are always working toward something, because otherwise you are working toward nothing.

What goals have you replaced lately?