Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

I Got Everything I Wanted This Year (and It Wasn’t as Thrilling as I Thought)

In 2015, I made more money than I’ve ever made before, grew my blog email list to over 100,000 people and published a best-selling book. So why at the end of the year did I still feel like I was missing something?

I Got Everything I Wanted This Year (and It Wasn't as Thrilling as I Thought)

This is the time of year when many a self-help guru would like to sell you some dream of “getting what you want” or “creating your best life now.” And don’t get me wrong. Those sound like great things. I want them for myself. But as someone who wrote down a bunch of goals last New Year’s and basically accomplished them all, I can tell you: it’s not as thrilling as you might think.

Why is this? I think there are a few reasons.

We humans are notoriously bad at understanding what will actually satisfy us.

That’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying, because life is a little unsatisfying.
—Gil, Midnight in Paris

Nobody believes that becoming rich will make you happy, but as Zig Ziglar once remarked, we all want to find out for ourselves.

Something I’ve found to be very important is understanding that happiness is a byproduct of purpose. So if you chase happiness, you won’t find it. But if you chase purpose, you’ll find happiness.

The work of Viktor Frankl illustrates this in his best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning in which he shares that what human beings need more than pleasure is meaning. But how do we go about this? Find a project, Frankl says, something to work on. It doesn’t have to be your passion, just something that requires your dedication and is a challenge you must overcome.

Having some kind of ability to meet the challenge is important, but it can’t be too easy. When we embrace this tension between competency and challenge we find ourselves in what’s called a state of “flow”, which, according to another notable psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the secret to happiness.

So after reaching the same goals again doing more of the same things I’ve done for the past four years, what I realized is I’m bored. It’s time for a new challenge, time to try something that might not work.

The journey is the destination.

Roads? Where were going we won’t need roads.
—Doc, Back to the Future

The thrill of a goal is setting it, not accomplishing it. The satisfaction of running a marathon is the training, not the race. The enjoyment of starting a business is building it, not selling it.

When Steve Jobs left Apple, he had $100 million to his name. He never had to work another day in his life, if he didn’t want to.

So what did he do?

He sunk half his life’s fortune into a little animation studio called Pixar. And when this big bet paid off, making him a millionaire, he didn’t stop there, either. He launched another computer company called NeXt that failed but was bought back by the company that fired him. And the rest, as they say, is history.

What do we call this? Workaholism? Maybe. But it just might mean that in spite of what we want to believe about our vocations, work is really a good thing — something we need to make sense of our lives.

And if that’s true, then one of the best things we could do is not squander how we spend our working lives, making sure we always have the next thing to work on, never growing too content with any single success, and never despairing too much of any single failure.

So much satisfaction lies in our pursuit of a thing, not the thing itself. And yet if we don’t have those small but significant “arrival” moments in life, we struggle to make sense of the rest of the journey. We need milestones and achievements to remind us we’re making progress. But we also need to remember it’s a long road we walk and that the process, not the individual success, is what make it fun.

So I will celebrate my accomplishments from the past year but not coast on them. I’m already bored with what I’ve done and want to do something else that requires more than just more of the same. For me, that means focusing on better work not just more of the same accomplishments. I want to grow in my craft.

Only you can decide when you get to be happy.

How much is enough? Just a little more than you already have.
—John D. Rockefeller

Until recently my goal every year was to double my income, increase my influence, and simply do more of the same things I’d already done. But this year I started to question why. What was the point of all this? Was I growing just for the sake of growing?

Not long ago, I had lunch with a business owner who has intentionally not grown his business in eight years.

“Why? Don’t you ever want more?” I asked over sushi.

“More? No. Not more but better. I want to do better work.”

“Not more, but better” has been a mantra ringing in my ears ever since that meeting. Just after that, I went on a personal retreat in the mountains of Colorado, and I couldn’t get that voice out of my head. As I started to ask for critical feedback from friends, family, and mentors, the same message resonated.

My goal for 2016 is not more, but better. To do better work. To have deeper relationships. To make more of an impact with the money, resources, and possessions I already have.

And maybe, just maybe, this is what you need, too. I’m not assuming it is, but I also know that if one of us is lost in the woods, looking for a way out, then there may be others who stumble along their way, as well.

This is for my fellow stumblers:

We must stop this endless search for more and realize that we already have more than we need to make the impact we want. You have enough money. You have enough influence. You have enough skill.

Now, do something with it. And remember, the secret is not more, but better.

What goals have you reached that aren’t enough anymore? How do you want to complete better work in New Year? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Henrik Ibsen was one of the few playwrights my professors gave me who I actually liked. Some of his works were extraordinarily boring, especially when people decided to preform them as dramas, ignoring his words that they were very much comedy.

    His plays, THE MASTER BUILDER and BRAND, features men who have become disenchanted with their accomplishments and try to seek bigger and bigger dreams. Their struggles explored a theme I felt actually related to me, made me actually relate to the characters, an idea very much like you described above. These plays feel like what Ibsen, a great playwright, was going through when he achieved the things he thought he wanted and could do nothing but keep creating bigger and better dreams.

    It taught me to enjoy the journey and have fun puzzling out the struggle. Even though I don’t always, it has made it easier. Ibsen is one writer I’m glad to have been forced to read.

  • I obviously did something wrong this year. I almost halved my income and kept doing the same-old-same-old that I had been doing for years. Next year, it finally needs to be better and more.

    But maybe, my goal is set too high so I don’t even start? I want to leave a footprint. Not like US citizens in Acapulco or Germans on Gran Canaria. More like Armstrong on the moon. Too lofty?

    • I think it is great to be ambitious, set goals and be a high achiever. However, when you say you want to leave a footprint, have you spent time thinking about why? What are your motivations? I know for myself, when I am trying to make an impact in this world, sometimes I get caught up in the desire to be recognized. The desire to be seen. I am sure if I were to dive into that desire, it would go back to childhood stuff, or our human need for recognition. But as soon as I assure myself I AM seen and recognized and appreciated, it clears the way for the real work to be done. My writing work focusing on adding valuable content for others. So maybe shifting the focus from wanting to leave a footprint, to asking yourself how you can best offer value to others, you will make an impact that reaches deeper than you can imagine.

      • My dream: to be a writer and teacher in the body of Christ to bring forth sons of God and mentor or father them.

        And I would love to build an international think tank to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems changing education.

        Nobody said my dreams were small. Thanks for your thoughts!

        • Anthony Smits

          Great dreams, Ralph. I hope you get to leave the footprints you’d like to leave, even if they only exist in your own mind.

  • Melinda Taylor

    I think of all of us have that longing in us. Not necessarily for making more money or fame. I think that longing is the sense of adventure that is in all of us. My motto in life is “Life is an Adventure. Live it to the fullest.” What do you get when you sit around doing nothing? Hemorrhoids.

  • This was great, Jeff. I had a super year, too, but somehow felt it wasn’t quite enough. But I think reflecting on how I can be better instead of how I am achieve more is something with meditating on. Improving and deeping already existing strengths has its benefits.

  • I managed to nearly equal my income working less which is great. But I’m still in desperation mode which you know is a passion killer. 2015 has been brutal, particularly in the last month. So 2016 can only go uphill.

    This is an awesome post Jeff!! Oh and I think you meant Pixar made Jobs a billionaire. As you pointed out – Apple had already made him a millionaire.

  • Loved the sentiments Jeff!

    I’m just getting started this year and it’s too early to even really comment on progress. Either way, I’ll definitely keep this in mind for next year when I’m having the same thoughts.

  • Daniela Uslan

    I absolutely love this post. You are so right that we all focus on growing…and growing…and growing. But if all of that growth isn’t based on a deeper purpose, it doesn’t make us happy. I DO want to grow my audience and my business this year, but I realized recently that unless I also grow in self acceptance, courage, and connection this year, I won’t be very happy. Thanks for writing this. And here’s to a year of depth!

  • Neil Bruinsma

    Love it! These words really resonate with me. Thanks Jeff.

  • CS Areson

    Great post. I know earlier this year I wasn’t seeing the results I was hoping for and thought I needed to do more. However, I felt like God said, “Just keep doing what your doing.” I saw months later that the work I was doing was laying the foundation for what was to come. Like the farmer I needed to wait for a harvest. Your comment about having enough enflunce already fit with that.
    Sometimes we don’t need more influence we need for the influence we have to mature.

  • I finally have a great job I love, am making more than I ever made, am appreciated in the workplace, and have a terrific relationship with these colleagues who have become like friends and family. But my own errors, mistakes and slip-ups challenge me daily and I get so disappointed in myself. I realize, as this post is saying, I do not need more; my goal is to do deeply better work here with what I already have. I need to pay more attention to detail, slow down in my processes, be more thorough in my tasks….heavens no i do not need “more”, as most days I feel overwhelmed from the start, but I can use 2016 to hone my skills and become better at what I have already been given to do.

  • Tara

    Great post! It was a good thing for me to hear today. Thank you for sharing.

  • This topic is both the most invigorating and the most exasperating one that I grapple with. Balancing doing work that has purpose (our calling so-to-speak) and the practicality of raising a family that needs to be supported seems to be at odds. I realize that they aren’t mutually exclusive ideals, but navigating them has proven to be challenging.

    I appreciate the encouragement and hopefully 2016 will prove to be more fruitful!

  • “More, not better”. I love it. That’s exactly what I need. (plus, I’m partial to anyone who quotes Doc Brown)
    This past year was pretty much the year that I found myself. And when I did, I found without a doubt that I am a writer. I tried to start a publishing deal (that was eventually cancelled), got started on my blog, and actually became a freelancer (I think it’s kind of fitting that I worked an entire year to become something, and my first project is due on the last day of the year)
    Though I never gained anything huge, and failed at quite a few things, I did find what I was looking for. I found purpose, and I really believe everything you’ve said. Purpose is the one thing that everyone needs, and I wasn’t really happy until I found it.

  • This is a great post Jeff thanks. Last year I set goals into place and by the first month ,,, my path to those goals were dramatically altered and not in a good way. Nothing I wanted to do got done, but I was given new goals- definitely not better by a long shot so because of that I am working on figuring out how to set better goals to help make 2016 better than this one.

    Still thinking what those goals could be/ and what I can do.

  • Lorraine

    Great post Jeff.
    I am just starting my path as a writer so many of
    the goals that you mentioned I still have to attain. And yet, I get it
    when you say that there is a point when you say ‘I have enough and I
    want to do better work’. I no longer get the satisfaction I once did
    working in the IT field and so, it is time for a new challenge. I don’t
    feel that there is the opportunity to do better work in this field for
    me – I have pretty well done everything that I wanted to.

    I am really looking forward to 2016. There will be new challenges that will make life interesting again.

  • dort

    I was going through my old and broken color crayons, thinking that if I am going to give my grandchildren a color book for Christmas, I should probably buy new crayons. But as I stared at that container full of broken, paperless, and used crayons, I thought…”why don’t we just color with what we’ve got?” so the grandkids got the used ones this year.
    As I was reading your article, I remembered that thought….it seemed to match what you are saying in this article perfectly…We need to color with what we got. Perfect that process first.

  • Better, not more.

    I am taking the tribe writers course as a brand new writer! Getting comfortable identifying as a writer, and getting a lot from the course so far. The Biggest thing has been the lesson that when you write for everyone, you actually write for no one. Everybody needs to find their niche, something that resonates with them through and through. Being a new writer, I was focusing on blogging about general self help topics that I felt most people could resonate with. Flop. I knew that I would love to blog about being a highly sensitive person (HSP) but also knew that only 15% of the population were HSPs. I was scared that I would have no following. But you know where this is going. After one post on being a highly sensitive person, I got more views in two days than 6 months of writing about general self help topics. What a confirmation! I don’t need more followers or subscribers, I need the right followers. Not more, better. The irony is, when you focus on better, you get more. In focusing on creating better, more valuable content, I will get more true fans. The people I can help the most. Thanks Jeff.

  • I’m joining the chorus for not more, but better. In fact, I’m going with less, but better. It’s great to know there’s somewhere we can belong, Jeff. Thank you for speaking this out loud. It gives us permission to do the same.

  • donnafreedman

    I’ve been making a living as a writer for 30+ years. This year I’m feeling the need to change the way I do business. Rather than run from assignment to assignment, I’d like to focus on my writing course and writing coach businesses. The idea is scary, frankly, because of the potential for gaps between paychecks.
    Your words, and the commenters’ words, are giving me some food for thought. Thanks.
    May 2016 be not just happy and prosperous but also personally satisfying to all.

  • Anthony Smits

    I agree with your reflection that ‘more’ doesn’t of itself bring happiness, as other commentators have also reflected down through the years.

    I think an increased focus on our values brings a corresponding increase in satisfaction; and, with respect to money, I think its likely the world still has a few ‘Scrooge’ personalities who value the acquisition of gold more highly than other principles.

    But I think it’s over-simplifying things to state “You have enough money. You have enough influence. You have enough skill.” because I know that in my case I don’t have enough of at least one. The terms are subjective, of course. Enough skill in one scenario would be inadequate in another; enough influence to initiate projects is only needed if you want to see them happen. However, I don’t think anyone can say that another has ‘enough’ money, unless you know their circumstances, and the costs they face.

    I liked what Dort said: “we have to color with what we got”, because the reality in the morning is that we must do whatever we’re trying to achieve from the place we are and with what we got.

    Thank you for sharing, and for inspiring me, Jeff 🙂

    • Kathleen Victoria Derbyshire

      Very good Anthony. I believe that we use the skills we currently have so we do have enough to move on or we wouldn’t be able to move on. We are just subject to our current knowledge but not limited by it because we can have more.

  • Carol Tice

    It’s an odd experience, having enough, isn’t it? Wasn’t like I thought it would be, either.

    I’m with you — I’m at the point of wanting better, not more. I’m searching for ways to better serve my readers, and the world I live in.

    I began moving in the right direction by spending Christmas day serving homeless families dinner at my synagogue with my husband and all of my kids, then staying the night with them along with my 12-year-old daughter, and serving breakfast. We take Christmas week and serve as their night shelter, so the Christian charities can have the week off. It’s a start — lots more service is to come, as I strive to address the gratitude shortage I’m facing with my kids. In a time when more people are homeless wanderers than anytime since WWII, we all need to be serving and giving, those of us who have a roof over our heads and aren’t on the run from an abusive spouse or ISIS or any of the other evils that confront us today. As they say at Al-Anon meetings, when I got busy, I got better. A lot of changes are coming to how I do business in 2016 — can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

    • Awesome you’re getting the kids into volunteering now. I didn’t do it until after college and it’s addictive. A poor neighborhood suffered a lot of damage when we got tornadoes on Christmas. Yesterday I wanted to stay and help at a local church but I came at the wrong time – governor was there. So I dropped off some cookies from this awesome store and prayed they got to the volunteers LOL Plan to go back.

      The tornadoes spawned around our neighborhood and it was a very uneasy and scary experience but we were spared! Helping feels awesome.

  • annette

    I have found goal setting to be difficult. But I agree that a year of doing “work better” is a worthwhile pursuit.

  • Colin Pearce

    By the others’ comments Jeff, I can see you have attracted a tribe of very warm and clever people. Congratulations. Your openness to your tribe and to yourself and God are a fine example in a tribal chieftain. Thank you. As for goal setting, I always find it can be a locus of anxiety throughout the year as I balance what the mind and body want most often in contrast to what the spirit groans for which is to satisfy the chief end of man, namely – as you know – ‘to glorify God and enjoy him forever’. Setting goals for that chief end is, as you Americans are prone to say, ‘a whole nuther challenge’ which I am yet to conquer.

  • Kathleen Victoria Derbyshire

    I have been thinking all day about setting some goals and discussing with Jesus where we go from here. He is leading me to learn and stop setting such huge goals. Just be satisfied with exactly what you said – with what I have because I have enough for now. I am going to spend the year blogging, writing and learning about what the Bible has to say about life skills. Then by next year I might be ready for more.

    • B. Gladstone

      Kathleen, I’m looking forward to reading your writings! Wish you God’s best for 2016!

      • Kathleen Victoria Derbyshire

        Thank you so much B.

      • Kathleen Victoria Derbyshire

        Thank you so much. I do appreciate it.

  • Jeff- Happy New Year! With the growing popularity of minimalism (Marie Kondo, Joshua Becker, The Minimalists) I think a lot of people are redefining what makes them happy. I turned to my artwork and writing about art & creativity. That led to a regular column with an on-line art site. Thanks in part to what I learned from you. I guess we each have to find that place where our hearts can sing. Here’s to a great 2016!

  • Austin Mattingly

    In reference to Srikumar Rao’s TED talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/srikumar_rao_plug_into_your_hard_wired_happiness), we always want more. To get a better job because it will make you happier. To get married because it will make you happier. To move to an exotic place because it will make you happier. But when we achieve these things, it inevitably doesn’t bring the happiness we expect.

    As you say, only you can decide when you get to be happy. When you understand this, you can be happy even in times of adversity. All while others are less happy achieving their goals. I speak from experience on this. In the past month I’ve lost what some would think to be a dream job and a dream girl but I have remained happy because I understand that it’s all about your state of mind.

    I completely agree with your thoughts here Jeff. Keep up the good work.

  • Monica Lobenstein

    My mantra is almost always, “That was great. What’s next?” I try to appreciate the moment of my “success” (this is the part I’m working on) and then it’s always “What’s next?” I get bored too. My other biggest challenge lies in letting something else go, like in your podcast the other day when you mentioned the practice of “killing 15% of the business.” That resonated with me because if I don’t let some things go, it leads to overwhelm fast. These are the kind of things I’ll work on in 2016.

  • cheryl

    My happiness comes from making other people appreciative and happy- work with special needs preschool kiddos. Has made me happy for over 40 years (that and my hubby and daughter and two shelter cats)!

    • B. Gladstone

      That is wonderful! Wish you a wonderful 2016!

  • B. Gladstone

    Previous goals reached were things to accomplish externally, whether it was to exercise more, or travel whereas now, my goals are more focus on internal. I look forward to asking my husband to join me in setting a goal that will be mutually benefiting and that we are accountable to each other, but he might agree to work with me to grow tomatoes in our backyard and for me to continue writing with optimism, joy and more dedication.

  • Love this post, resonates deeply. It’s as if for a writer, more words validate, give approval to your work, struggling for likes, or popularity. I have realized that I follow some of the biggest underdogs and am encouraged by my own work. I completely crunched out 75,000 words in my first manuscript by doing a better work this year. How? Focus! I just did it every day by setting a chapter goal. It was a great accomplishment and such a big thing. Small sacrifice to what’s inside. Someone once said less is more, I believe that is true. Contentment is the key to happiness, work is art, celebrate small wins, just keep going. I know all the mantras but those didn’t accomplish anything until I began to walk in my purpose. Platforms are important but when you are creating, it’s your purpose that validates. Your identity is the key to life, purpose, and accomplished goals. Our problem is we want it all, or do it all instead in exchange for worldy gain. The better work is, for me, godly contentment, that’s true satisfaction of the soul. Just my thoughts.

  • Hi Jeff,

    Great post! I congratulate you on all you have accomplished thus far, but I do understand exactly what you are trying to say in this post.

    To be honest with you, I just turned 29 this month and was kind of reflecting on my life up to this point. I have tried to go over everything that I have accomplished in and have contributed to this world, and there is still so much I want to do.

    And in my short 29 years of life, I have also found that we are all (some more than others) sick with this “the grass is greener on the other side” disease. But it is when we get to the other side that we find another patch of grass or yard that we become jealous of and covet over. And it is when we get to that new patch or yard where the cycle starts all over again.

    In short, we are just never happy with where we are at. In fact, I just remember something a mentor of mine once said, “be complacent but never satisfied”. In other words, be happy with what you have (don’t covet others possessions or accomplishments), but don’t be satisfied…always be looking to improve and become better for yourself.

    What that means to me is this: I want to be happy with what I have, where I am, and what I have accomplished, but I never want to stop growing, improving, and becoming a better me.

    What do you think about this?

    • Emily Amner

      I agree. Becoming content. I was continually chasing after my future, and as a result was never content. learning to be content is a discipline; it is something that takes practice. Being content is deciding that you have enough, despite what you don’t have.

      • Hi Emily,

        I couldn’t agree more.

        Contentment is a intangible force that pushes us towards greatness.

  • Dotails

    I Gave Everything I Wanted This Year (and It Was Everything I Hoped For) I got my siblings a 12ft Soccer Ball and a Wii and they’re jaw drop was worth every penny.

  • Paula Radell

    I struggled all year to find a place where I felt like I “fit in” in the author world – and I didn’t find it until I stopped looking, stopped trying so hard, and just started to make my own way. This year, it’s all about one step at a time and enjoying the moments, building just a few precious relationships and nurturing the ones I already have. Oh – and I need to finish and publish my book. 😉

    • prosperbwealth

      You’ve found the stillness and peace you need. That’s a challenge in the writing world. Goodluck with your book.

  • I had to change things up a bit a few months back, because I was doing the same routine for so long. I’d start my day by writing at least 500 words per day, eat and snack in between, study ,Spanish, study algebra. I worked on building my blog and building my audience. I helped my aunt with taking care of my elderly grandmother. Like you, I eventually discovered the things I loved doing no longer brought me happiness,

    I then decided to try my hand at writing romance fiction, a genre I’ve never written before. I completed at least the first 45,000 in 30 days time. I’ve since finished this book and have been working on the second book in my romance series. I try to challenge myself each day by changing up my goals in life. But I also believe it’s important for one to reflect on his or her own life at least once or even twice a week such as I recently began doing.

    I wrote down everything I could think of about myself such as who I am, what I am what do do, what I achieved in life, what my interest are, and my hobbies so as to get to know myself better.

    A couple nights ago I had the strangest dream. In the dream, I was sitting in a room jotting down notes pertaining to writing when someone said, “The biggest problem in dealing with gratification is how to deal with it all at once.”
    Upon awakening from the dream I immediately wrote the statement down I heard in my dream and reflected on it. I thought this sounds like something Mr. Jeff Goins would say.

  • Emily Amner

    I got a top position at my “dream” research hospital… something was wrong. It wasn’t my love. It was my lust. So I said good bye. Now I have the time to do what I was meant to do, to do what gives me peace, to do what I am passionate about. To share my story of brain injury – mybruisedbrain.com

  • prosperbwealth

    Jeff, this post struck a cord in my soul. Now, I keep hearing “Better! Be BETTER!! MAKE IT BETTER INSTEAD!!!” within me.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Now, I’m going to rewrite my 2016 growth in the context of ‘BETTER’.


  • Maria Mar

    Fulfillment is the result of being fully present, giving and receiving, in the present. We are not filled by what we have, but by what we live; but we must be fully present, in body and soul to let it in. Then it fills us fully. Thanks for sharing so honestly. It inspires and empowers us all.

  • Fiona Tarr

    I am going to help others where I can, when they fall into my small circle of influence. I am going to continue to write the books I love to write with the message I want to share. I am going make the most of every opportunity that comes my way, not for money, but for learning, growing and instigating change. That’s what I am going to do with my resources, and I am not going to quit my day job, not yet; I like my day job. Thanks Jeff.

  • Thanks for the timely post … I’m heading back to work tomorrow after a lengthy holiday break and, though my current position is one of the two or three “dream” jobs I’ve had in my life, I realize that it’s the constant challenge of each — rather than the title or position itself — that really made them worthwhile.

    I know that several challenging projects lie ahead, and that’s what’s most intriguing about this New Year. I have the chance to do better, in all ways, than I have in the past.


  • Ofori Ammishaddai

    I was exactly where you were Jeff. That daunting feeling of emptiness till I found purpose in Jesus Christ.
    He is the best version of joy there is.
    Good stuff man.

  • Thanks for reflecting positive values in what you write. I appreciate those who like yourself have found success by lifting others up and emphasizing an others-centered approach to life and success.

    Good book too. 🙂

  • One of my favorite pieces