Commentary: Rethinking the way we measure our goals


For much of my childhood, the process of setting New Year’s resolutions mirrored my attitudes toward success.

I was proud to define my career goals with a lot of structure and ambition, with diligent use of methodologies and planning tools.

For me, if I articulated enough smart goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) and charted my paths in depth, things would go as they were meant to.

It’s strange, in retrospect, to have been so bound by arbitrary milestones, but I certainly remember how the personal newsletter of December 31 of each year set the tone for the new one to come.

Over the years, I have slowly developed a new relationship with planning and goal setting.

Maybe growing up has softened me up, or I’m a lot more equipped to deal with disappointment when I’m not hitting my milestones.

One thing’s for sure, growing up hasn’t assuaged my innate urge to take stock – am I nearing my full potential in what I’m doing? Am I “there”?

I believe this is what motivates us as humans – wiring to seek, to find safety in direction and certainty in our lives. But when that “destination GPS” crashes, so do we.

We suffer so much from success anxiety, and one of the hardest things to swallow is that if we don’t meet our goals, we have failed on our ballot.

These thoughts can tear us apart, needlessly. Quite simply because we have chosen the wrong measure.


Achievement should be a continuous pursuit, not a destination.

We consume far too many success stories from others, not hearing enough about the obstacles, obstacles and detours they took to get to their current place.

For every “success story” we turn our attention to, we lose sight of many more “work in progress stories” that the person has taken, stories that reflect the true nature of discovering our destinations.

I experienced my own reality when, early in my career, I moved from the private sector to the not-for-profit sector.

It was a difficult time of great personal distress, but in hindsight, in large part due to the struggle to “know the plan” and the frustration of not living up to a simple success story.

A random leap of faith to try something different going from business to business.

The nonprofit sector saved me, because it was only by venturing out that I discovered the joy in new ground that I never dreamed of venturing into.

Young people often confuse their lack of direction with a lack of identity and self-esteem.

But if you don’t have a plan, it’s not the end of the world.

Just take one small step, any small step, before inaction and fear hold you back. Keep moving, keep changing routes.


What is measured matters. On the way to achieving our goals, we tend to measure our success more by how far away we are from our destinations than by how far we have traveled.

In the attempt to get to the end point, we sometimes miss the value of the walk itself.

In ipsative assessments, we track progress against individual starting points, not just end results.

Likewise, reaching the end point is a poor indicator of our courage, resilience, and effort – things that really define us and our character. They make each of our stories our own.

I work at the Halogen Foundation, where we try to sow seeds for young people.

I have had the privilege of remembering this principle on a daily basis. Regardless of their economic background, academic performance, aspirations and dreams, every young person is unique.

The growth stories that excite us so much and inspire us are always the stories of how far young people have come, given where they were and how much sweat, heart and courage they put into becoming. stronger versions of themselves.

What is measured matters. And we have to remember that the treasure of travel is the walk, not the end point.


We are walking vessels of the accumulated perspectives and opinions that are poured out upon us (or sometimes what we consciously or unconsciously pour into ourselves).

These perspectives seep into our inner core and can positively or negatively shape our beliefs. Beliefs are manifested in the way we see ourselves and our lives.

As I followed my personal journey, I learned to devote space to reflecting on what is in me and to “cleanse” my beliefs.

Being in a country with a lot of consumerism and access to material things, there are seasons in my life where I realize that I may have been too engrossed in owning things for a sense of identity. and purpose.

The reverse may be true. By working with many young developers, my belief in proactive youth development has strengthened over the years.

What I have absorbed over time is subtle but has shaped the filters through which I see the world.

If self-care is about tending to our inner soul – to find rest, grounding, and compassion for ourselves; so self-cleaning is to question our beliefs and their foundation.

If there are any unhealthy tales that I have worn, do I still want to wear them? Don’t hang on to unnecessary weights that don’t belong to you, do a regular spring cleaning of what’s inside.

Some of these “healthy research” principles are really counterintuitive as a formula for doing this.

But as I learned to embrace these principles, I noticed a stronger ability to leave room for ambiguity and understand just how a freeing opportunity to not respond can be. exploration and a real sense of fulfillment.

“No matter how diverse their talents, their temperaments and their differences, all great winners have one thing in common: they never bother to compare themselves to other men, but are content to lead their own race according to their own terms. “

– Sydney J Harris

Am I still here? Maybe it’s more important to keep moving forward and getting closer.


Ivy Tse is Managing Director of the Halogen Foundation Singapore, a youth development charity. This article first appeared in The Birthday Book: Are We There Yet?, A collection of 56 essays that address this question regarding Singapore.


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