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The list is out!  You’re in!  After a million hours of preparation and a zillion prayers, you’ve got through to the IIM! You’re officially and rightfully part of the top niche. Your dream has come true. A flashback flashes through your mind:

Sitting in school – day dreaming of IIM,

Giving board examinations – mugging for IIM,

Extra-currics in college – building a CV for IIM,

Slogging for CAT, GDs and PI – preparing for IIM,

Staring at the list – already in IIM!

It’s been your goal for as long as you can remember and you have proved to be worthy of it.

But something doesn’t feel right.

Have you ever felt like this? You’ve wanted something so so badly and when you get it, it just doesn’t feel as good as you thought it would. All the high-definition multicolor dreams suddenly seem faded and jaded after coming true. You thought you’ll feel on top of the world but standing at the peak of Mt.Everest somehow hasn’t got your heart pumping. Why doesn’t this success feel like victory? You’ve won, then why does that little feeling in your heart look more like disappointment rather than exhilaration? What’s wrong? The following pointers might just provide the missing pieces to this jigsaw puzzle:

Dreams are sweeter than reality:

What did you expect to feel after that win? Would the world suddenly look different, would a plethora of opportunities drop in your lap, would you become the star in your friends circle, would the nagging at home stop, would your critical boss finally see you for the diamond you are?? Perhaps the worth of the moment diminished as it was sacrificed at the altar of unrealistic expectations. Maybe it isn’t that you don’t feel good, it’s just that you expected to feel much much better. What you had imagined in your head a million times was a fantasy. Time for a reality check.

Identifying the right carrot/goal and the underlying need:

All behavior is driven by a reward. We need to get something out of what we do. The reward maybe money, power, fame, love, approval, appreciation or even chocolates! Which of these do you seek?

This is a seemingly simple question to which many people give the wrong answer. You say you want that promotion. Why? What will the promotion do for you? Give you more money, more power, more respect? Which of these is most important to you? What is your primary motive?

Try this simple exercise, just list down all the goals you wish to achieve – lose weight, study abroad, date that girl, be a millionaire – and follow each one with what you wish it will make you feel if you really do achieve it. The end result will probably be words from the above list. See which words recur most. That is your primary motive.

The next step is identifying which goals and which path is most likely to lead to the satisfaction and fulfillment of this motive. If you want approval and find yourself being a tyrannical boss to be successful, no amount of success will bring you happiness. One of my friends put it beautifully – “I do only that which is in consonance with my dream, everything else is a waste of time”. So do yourself a favor, and have a dream, a clear and specific one, which fulfills your inner needs – personal, professional and spiritual.

Enjoying the journey:

So you identified the right goal, and even took the right path but you’re still at the same spot? Take a quick recap and check just how the journey to get to this spot has been for you?

Did you (or others) put so much pressure that the goal became torturous? From being an inspiration, did your dream turn into a nightmare giving you sleepless nights? Was your dream reduced to just an exam, which would decide if you are worthy of existence? Well, when an exam ends, what we feel is relief and not necessarily triumph, and usually not joy. Rather than achieving something positive, it mainly seems like the end of something negative.

Was your life so single-mindedly focused on your goal that it completely absorbed you, filling up your life? Now that it’s over, you might feel at a loss, not knowing what to do with your time, thoughts and energy as the point of focus is now obsolete. Mission accomplished. What next?!

Then there are those who have already thought of 10 more things that they want to accomplish next. You’ve become the class valedictorian, next to Harvard, then to NASA or wherever. While you’ve gotten busy plotting the next dream, you’re forgetting to live the present one which has come true after tons of effort. Give this dream the respect it deserves; do your efforts some justice.

Pause. Breathe. Live the moment.

Discounting the positive:

Are you taking your failures too hard and your successes too lightly? This is a common irrational thought that many people fall trap to – magnifying the negative and discounting the positive. Do you bash yourself up for every little thing that goes wrong, taking more than your fair share of responsibility for negative outcomes? Moron, stupid, useless – are these patent words of your self-talk?

And when, if by God’s grace you are blessed with success, either you attribute it to factors like chance, luck, fate, fluke or feel that this particular goal hadn’t been all that important anyways so it doesn’t matter. What’s the big deal if you won this one? You know what a fool you have been all those other times. If only, you had had more success in those. Alas!

Obviously, if the victory doesn’t matter, it will not feel as great either. If you don’t feel good enough internally, no amount of success can make you feel differently. Just try to step out of your overly tight shoes for once, and take a more objective look at the rationality of your thoughts.

In one (hyphenated) word, “Self-Love” is the best and perhaps the only way to ensure that winning isn’t a disappointment. Believe in the winner you are.

Post contributed by: Mahima Gupta (Psychologist, Inner Space, 2010-2012)


  1. “In one (hyphenated) word, “Self-Love” is the best and perhaps the only way to ensure that winning isn’t a disappointment. Believe in the winner you are.”

    If reality is restricted to only this world then this piece of advice would suffice but as one experiences that reality is much more than the visible and extends to the invisible. i.e Truth. Love, beauty…

    This innate need for transcendentals require a fulfillment. This fulfillment is not achieved or gained but to be received as a gift Like “Peace”. Therefore a gift needs a giver and that is God!

    To experience this personal God is ultimately the end of the journey where all other achievements or failures are stepping stones.

    “Self-love” needs to be transformed into “self-less” love that is “pure love” . This process is difficult but not impossible.

    This is exemplified in the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross whose teaching was quiet opposite to the above:

    “Blessed( Happy) are poor in spirit for they shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven”


  2. Aah Siddhant- That is certainly a paradox like a zillion others that I can think of and daily encounter in life and while conducting my therapy sessions. We need to be great children and obey our parents and we also need to be free and choose our life… Now tell me which one is better. I feel goal setting is just one of these paradoxes we learn to live with.

    In any case I’ll give you my take: Go ahead and plan and set goals (because it is too difficult after years of conditioning to let go)- but live with what there is with you today-happily- while you are on your journey towards that goal. So yes, I agree with you- it is ultimately about being content 🙂

    Also you remind me of a related article I posted on our facebook page few months ago. Here’s the link: why goal setting doesn’t work


  3. Isn’t it ultimately about being content? About believing that while more would be better but am happy if it doesn’t happen. Self love is a mode for this probably.. But doesn’t being content make you less ambitious? Should you really stop and think that this is it – no need for more! Isn’t that against the fundamental belief of continous dreaming / having a goal in life?

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