What to do when you feel guilty for working on your goals

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We are all told that it’s good, and important, to have personal goals. It’s true. You want to push yourself to reach your full potential. But how does this impact those around you?

The bottom line is, when you spend time on something, that’s less time you have to spend on something else. Sometimes going for our goals can feel selfish. And it can be, in a way. You have to balance the time, energy and focus you spend on your goals with the time, energy and focus you need to spend on your family, work, and other responsibilities. It can be tricky. Here are some ideas:

Timing: Think about what’s going on with your life and with other people around you before you commit to a goal. For example, if your partner has just had a baby, that’s probably not the best time to decide to take up marathon running and spend X number of hours every week out pounding the pavement. Scale it back and keep up your health, but save the long hours of training for a different time.

Future benefit: Sometimes reaching your goals is a lot of hard work in the short term that requires sacrifice for everyone involved now, but will pay off later. For example if you are going through medical school or getting your MBA, it’s very intensive and time consuming which can be hard on your family. But the end benefits to your long-term career, earning potential and ability to take care of your family make it worth the hardship in the short term.

Support: Whatever your personal goals, seek the support of your family/ friends/ team. Explain to them why it’s so important to you, what your plan is, and how it will impact them. If they understand the reasons why you’re spending so much time on it, they will be happier knowing you’re not just absent from them, you are doing something for your (and their) long-term benefit.

Have you ever felt guilty about working toward your goals? What did you do?

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