Do you know when you have reached your goals?

That may sound like a stupid question, but in reality, we are often more dependent on metrics set up by other people than we think. Somehow we seem to put our trust in external confirmation, as if that is the only truth.

Let’s say you want to be a writer and you write every day. Maybe you write a thousand words every day. You don’t post or publish your texts anywhere. Are you then a writer? Maybe you want to make an impact by posting videos on YouTube every day. You feel that you are making a difference in other people’s lives and that you are building a connection with your audience, but only ten people watch your clips. Are you then a successful YouTube influencer?

Many of us would answer no to the questions above. We believe that we need to have a thousand, ten thousand or a million followers before we can call ourselves that thing we are hoping to be.

But your goals don’t have to be something that can be verified by others. Nor do they only count if they are a part of external “success”, like starting a business, making money or becoming famous.

Who says that what other people call you, is what defines you? Who decides what success is or whether or not you have reached a goal?

I believe that one of the reasons why we rely so much on external outcome goals, is that we are hoping that when we reach that magical number, others will take care of our “success” for us.

We think that once we have achieved X (made that deal, reached that profit, lost the pounds, gained those followers, or any other external recognition), others will start liking us, recommending us, interacting with us, start a business with us or invest in us. We hope that things will just take off from there and that we won’t need to make it happen ourselves or do the required work.

I don’t think that’s a healthy way to set our direction in life. And it certainly doesn’t give our goals meaning or lead to any lasting fulfillment.

We are often too blinded by the metrics of the goals, the numbers and the measurable success. But if you want to be a writer and write every day, have you not already accomplished that?

We’ve learned that we should set meaningful, attainable, specific and measurable goals, but it seems that the first word – meaningful – is the most overlooked one.

It’s easy to forget why we are doing something. When you set a goal that you are going to lose ten pounds, make fifteen thousand dollars or sell five thousand copies of your book – why are you looking to reach that specific number? Think about what difference that number really makes.

What is your real goal behind that number?

We need to start from somewhere else. The goal is not, well… the goal. The goal is something that makes the real reason tangible for us. It gives us a way to tick the box when we have achieved something.

But we can’t begin there. We need to start with the real reason. The why, the vision and the values behind what we are doing. Those are the actual reasons. The goals we set are just checkpoints along the way.

The metrics only make sense if they take you further and allow you to confirm, to yourself, that you are heading in the right direction towards your vision and that you are living in coherence with your values. If not, the goals are meaningless. Why fifteen thousand and not ten or twenty? Why ten pounds and not seven?

If we don’t fill our goals with something more, how can we find the strength and persistence to reach them? Let’s say you want to lose ten pounds and you decide to exercise every day to reach that goal. It will be extremely difficult for you to drag your weary body to the gym on cold and rainy nights when you come home exhausted from work, if you’re not even sure what those ten pounds mean to you.

But if your why and your values say that it is important to you to live a healthy and balanced life where you have energy to do things that you enjoy every day – you will find it easier to stay focused. There will be no reason to worry about how many push-ups you did, how many fans you have or how much money you make. If what really matters to you is to feel better and live longer, you will gradually and naturally add things in your life to make that happen.

And if you enjoy writing or making videos and you improve, learn and grow every day, it will not matter what the numbers tell you right now. The important thing is to follow the process and to not lose sight of why you added those creative outlets to your life in the first place.

How do you want to live? What do you want your life to look like ten years from now? What are the most important things in your life? If we asked ourselves these questions instead of checking how many likes or comments our Facebook posts receive, we would not only add more meaning to our goals, but also to our lives.

And as we’re talking about setting goals, isn’t that the ultimate one?