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Is it Possible to Become Too Focused on Your Goals?

2012 February 20

Goals are meant to help us realize dreams and create our best life; but without balance we risk losing sight of what matters most today.

I’m a believer … in the power of focus and in the power of goal setting to give us direction in our efforts to create a better life.

However, I also believe that it’s possible to become so focused on the process of reaching our goals that we lose sight of all the good things we have going for us today, and at times maybe even why we wanted to achieve our goals in the first place.

Of course making some sacrifices on the journey to achievement is to be expected, but life is short and the danger of always keeping an eye toward the future is that we risk developing tunnel vision and taking for granted all the good things we have going for us now.

As with anything in life, there needs to be balance, even when pursuing our most cherished goals.

The quality, not the longevity, of one’s life is what is important. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

You may be too focused on your goals if …

  • You’ve become obsessed worrying about your time: Is your time preoccupied with, well, worrying about your time? Endlessly cycling through your to-do list in your head, spending a lot of time arranging and rearranging your schedule, or wishing throughout the day that you had more time are all pretty good signs you may need to take a break and rethink priorities.
  • You can’t remember the last time you were spontaneous: You used to say yes to impromptu evenings out or weekend getaways. Now when someone asks you to a last-minute potluck dinner party, all you can think of is you don’t have time to grocery shop or cook anything to take. Try to think quality rather than quantity and give yourself permission to enjoy the occasional break in routine, you’ll enjoy life all the more for it!
  • You eat most of your meals on the go: If you eat most of your meals in the car, at your desk, while on the phone (or worse, not at all), this is a sign that you have seriously overloaded your schedule.
  • You don’t remember the last time you talked to your best friend: It’s ironic that the first relationships to go are usually the ones we take for granted, which are also usually the ones that are actually most important to us. If your chats with your closest friend (or spouse!) are starting to feel like rushed downloads instead of real conversation, slow down and make more time to reconnect—you’ll be happier for it.
  • You’re sleep-deprived: If you doze off in meetings or at the wheel then oversleep on weekends to try and play catch up, you’re not getting the kind of sleep you need to function at your best. Although skimping on sleep may seem like one of the easiest ways to gain extra time in our day, your body needs time to repair and restore.
  • You don’t take time for personal indulgences: Maybe you have a favorite hobby like painting or golf, or simply enjoy reading a good book or the luxury of lingering over breakfast with the paper. It’s easy to consider these activities frivolous when more pressing issues face us, however making time for these personal indulgences is important because they nourish you, cause you to slow down and enjoy your life.
  • You can’t recall when you last exercised: Working out is about more than just losing weight—it has proven psychological benefits, like reducing anxiety and depression. If you haven’t exercised in a few weeks, you might be in a vicious cycle: Too busy and stressed to work out, which in turn prevents you from getting the stress relief you probably need.
  • You resent being asked for a favor or commitment: You used to love to help or be involved. But now if a friend asks you for a favor your immediate response is tinged with resentment because you’re already pulled in so many different directions. While mastering the art of saying no is a valuable skill, there’s also a lot to be said for building some wiggle room into your schedule to occasionally be there for others and foster relationships in your community.
  • You don’t deal well with unexpected changes to your schedule: Life is unpredictable. No matter how we try to plan or schedule around it, the one thing that is constant is change. Having enough breathing room in your life means that when there are last minute changes such as a meeting gets moved or you have to pick up your sick child from school, you can respond and adjust with some amount of ease. If your response instead is more along the lines of hyperventilating and making a beeline for your calendar, then you’re probably too tightly scheduled.

If you look at the path of life for most people, you’ll find that about 95% of the journey is spent working toward achieving various goals, and only 5% in the actual results, if that much. Which means if you’re not enjoying the journey you’re missing out on some of the most important times of your life.


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19 Responses
  1. June 21, 2012

    Here is my opinion: On first steps toward a major goal, in most cases you can’t afford to maintain a balance. You must fight for your goal with all your strength and, according my opinion, you have the right to loose the balance.
    After a while though, when the first steps are behind and you feel that your goal can be more than a dream, it is possible to relax and look for a balance.

  2. February 29, 2012

    Great post, Marty! I know that there have been times when I have noticed that I miss the trees for the forest. I’ve heard a lot of people say that this is par for the course for a Ph.D. student, but I know that it is not a good idea to get into bad habits, because how is “this is what happens to Ph.D. students” going to change when confronted with “this is what happens to professors”?
    Steve Nicholas recently posted..Know Your RoleMy Profile

  3. February 23, 2012

    Right now, I am having a problem in focusing on my goals. Maybe because I used to procrastinate most of the time. The downfall of which is I can’t totally maximize my potential and my time as well. That’s why I find it hard to balance my life.
    Timothy recently posted..Upright Vacuum Cleaners – Pros And ConsMy Profile

    • February 23, 2012

      Hey Timothy, I’m not a professional psychologist, but after coaching new entrepreneurs for over a decade I do know that there is almost always a reason behind chronic procrastination. Whether there’s something else going on in your life, or maybe you’ve set goals that aren’t really true to your values, who you are and who you want to become in this life … it might be worth it for you to try to identify what’s distracting you when you find yourself procrastinating. By the way, I am planning to write about just this topic next week so I hope you’ll check back. Thanks for taking the time to contribute!

  4. February 22, 2012

    Awesome post. I have had those times when I was too involved working on things and not spending enough time with things I should also be doing. Balance is very important.
    Melodie Kantner recently posted..Have You Heard About The Home Business Radio Network?My Profile

    • February 22, 2012

      Hey Melodie, thanks so much for your kind comment, and I’m really pleased that you enjoyed the article :-)

  5. February 22, 2012

    Marquitta I love this post – thank you:) We’re all so obsessed with fulfilling our goals but at what cost?

    I set myself some pretty tough goals this year and whilst I’ve been achieving them… I’ve been working incredibly long hours to get there and haven’t been sleeping as well as I want to be!

    This is a very timely post for me as part of my goals for this year is to have a better lifestyle… I can be a bit of a workaholic and although I’m incredibly focused it can take over your life.
    These great tips have really helped me… I’ll be bookmarking for sure:)
    Lilach Bullock recently posted..12 Successful Facebook Advertising TipsMy Profile

    • February 22, 2012

      Hey Lilach, well first of all congratulations for achieving a strong start to the year. That said, I hope you’ll also be able to find a way to include some valuable time for yourself so you can enjoy all of your successes!

  6. February 21, 2012

    Yes, you can definitely become too focused. Stepping back, taking a breather, then coming back and replanning where everything is at a more comfortable and less stressful pace is normally something I do. This is the reason why I started doing more activities outside of my home so I could make sure my health was taken care of too.
    Nile recently posted..Blogging Ain’t Perfect: Your Blog VoiceMy Profile

    • February 22, 2012

      Welcome back Niles, and good for you for being proactive about taking care of yourself. Doing what we can to create some balance is especially important for women because we spend so much of our time giving to others.

  7. February 21, 2012

    Hello again Marquita! What a pleasure it is to read you. Your insights about obsessive focus are right on the money.

    It’s good to have a routine and a structure to your life, but when this routine becomes an end in itself, then you’re not living at all. That’s like someone who’s worked his entire life to make a pile of money, but he never learned how to enjoy any of it. Sigh!

    I good friend of sums it up nicely, “I have a rigid policy of flexibility.” Keep your routine, but be a little flexible.

    Thank you for a truly well-articulated reminder!
    Srinivas Reddy recently posted..Keep It Simple, StupidMy Profile

    • February 22, 2012

      Thanks Srinivas, always appreciate your insightful comments and I’m so glad you enjoyed the article!

  8. February 21, 2012

    Hi Marquita,

    I love this post – so much is written about focusing on your business but striking a balance will bring far greater results long-term. We do business with those we know, like and trust but you have to be a real person for others to like you and having interests beyond business makes us all the more interesting.

    Clare recently posted..Enjoying the Holistic Health Benefits of Champagne and Dark Chocolate!My Profile

    • February 21, 2012

      Welcome back Clare … so glad you liked the article and thanks for sharing your thoughts – always appreciated. I know it’s hard when we’re all so busy, but everyday we hear stories about people who leave us far too young, it just seems so important to remind ourselves occasionally that TODAY really does matter. BTW still daydreaming about the champagne and dark chocolate – I see a splurge in my near future!

  9. February 21, 2012

    I think if you have too focused on something you might not notice some changes that happens around you. You might loose some valuable opportunities.
    Herbert recently posted..Experience Blogging with JuxMy Profile

  10. Steve Borgman (
    February 20, 2012

    Marquita, you write such great articles! I can strongly identify with the tendency to become too goal focused. Or, sometimes, just too ‘busy’ focused (which is worse, because then I’m not even focused on my most important goals!) I was listening to Cliff Ravenscraft, the Podcast Answer Man, today. He got too focused on his goals, and as a result, developed a unique podcast called Pursuing a Balanced Life. It’s always a great reminder to not get too off balance. Thanks, Marquita! :)
    Steve Borgman ( recently posted..How To Live Like a MillionaireMy Profile

    • February 20, 2012

      Thanks Steve, really appreciate your kind words and especially taking the time to share your thoughts. Thanks for mentioning the podcast, sounds interesting and I’ve been meaning to become more familiar with that medium – will definitely have to check out Cliff’s program.

  11. February 20, 2012

    Our business can be like tunnel vision only focusing ahead and not taking the time to be human and live. Although it is important to strive, it is good to set time aside for daily activities that fulfill us. Creating a balance in the best choice. You really put down critical points for having balance.
    Jacob recently posted..Changing The Game Plan For Faster ResultsMy Profile

    • February 20, 2012

      Welcome Jacob, and thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts. BTW, really enjoyed your article as well :-)

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