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What Happens When You Run Out of Goals? Article by: Earl Nightingale

Here are some interesting questions you might want to try answering. One: If you could completely change places with any other person in the world, would you do it? And who would that person be? Two: If you could work at any job you could choose, would that work be different from the work you’re doing now? Three: If you could live in any part of the country you want to live in, would you move from where you are now living? Four: If you could go back to age 12 and live your life from that point over again, would you do it?

Studies indicate that the great majority of people, even though they have a certain amount of dissatisfaction with their present lives and don’t seem to be as happy as they might be, will answer “no” to all four questions. A person often feels when he’s accomplished everything he’s worked and struggled for so long to achieve, he finds himself depressed more and more of the time. He has a fine job and an excellent income, a beautiful home, a wonderful spouse and children. In fact, everything is finally just as he’d planned it for so many years. And for no reason that he can put his finger on, all the fun and enthusiasm has strongly disappeared. He’s listless and unhappy, and he can’t think of a single reason why.

This has become a common modern malady, especially in retirement, and it’s what so often happens when a person runs out of goals. This is when the game of life begins to go to pot, and the person needs to remind himself of the basic rules for successful, enthusiastic living. And the first rule is that a human being must have something worthwhile toward which he’s working. Without that, everything else, even the most remarkable achievements of the past and all the trappings of worldly success tend to turn sour. Achieving our life goals can be compared to opening our presents on Christmas morning and watching those we love open theirs. We look forward to the day, plan, and work toward it. Suddenly it is there and all of the presents have been opened, and then what?

Well, we must then turn our thoughts and attention to other things. The successful novelist begins planning his next book before he completes the one he’s working on. The scientist always has something new and challenging to turn to when he completes a project. The teacher has a new class coming up. The young family has children to raise and get through school, the new home to buy, the promotion to work for.

But for millions who reach their 40s and 50s and find they’ve done all they set out to do and that there are no new challenges to give them stimulus and direction, there often comes the most trying time of their lives – the search for meaning, for new meaning, and it must be found if the old interest and vitality are to be restored to their lives, if they’re to achieve renewal as persons.

If you understand this, even the search for new meaning can bring new interest into your life. You’ve got to say to yourself, “All right, I’ve done what I’ve set out to do. Now I must find something new and interesting to do.”

Source: Earl Nightingale’s The Essence of Success, edited by Carson V. Conant.


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"First say to yourself what you would be: and then do what you have to do."

- Epictitus

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