How to Achieve Your Goals: Ignore Your Goals!

Posted by Amy Chan on July 24, 2014 0 Comments

We’ve heard the word our entire life: goalWhat are your goals in life?  How can you achieve your goal?  What do you want to be when you grow up?  All of these things are focusing our attention on an end result, or a goal.  This is our natural way to think of things because we look at someone who’s achieved something in their life, and we say: hey, I want to do that.  I want to sing on a major label record, or, I want to write a book, my friend did, so can I!

Having a goal is fine, but what we need to focus our attention on is how to achieve the goal.  We don’t want to invest our time and energy into naming a goal, but in putting a system in place that we can actually follow on a day to day basis to achieve what we want to achieve.  What do we mean by this?  If you want to be the next guitar god of the century, your goal, you need to focus on a regimented and daily practice schedule, and keep to it.  If you want to be a rich and powerful lawyer, you need to know the steps toward achieving the academic success that is required to become one.

Why do we want to focus on the process instead of the goal?

First of all, you cannot achieve a goal over night.  So by focusing on an end result, you are comparing your day to day life with a happier and more successful future which means, by definition, your current life is a disappointment.  You will be in a constant state of not-having-achieved-your-goal.  If instead you focus on the process, you can go to sleep each night knowing you are on the right path.  You can look at actual things you did – TODAY – to better your life.  You may not be the next Jimi Hendrix right now, but you practiced your guitar for three hours, which you know is an important step on that path – good for you!

If you have too-specific of a goal, say a mid-term type goal like running a marathon, when that goal is technically achieved, you’ve lost your long term motivator.  You focused so hard on this one thing, and now it’s in the past, and you don’t have that carrot dangling in front anymore.  This contributes to the yo-yoing of many people when trying to focus on a career or self-improvement.  If you concern yourself more with getting some exercise each day, or going on a long run a few times a week, once that marathon is over, the process remains, and you will be able to continue working on your craft or your activity into the future.

Another problem with a long term goal orientated mind set, is it relies far too much on things that are entirely out of your control.  If your goal is 5 years out, who knows what could happen in that time.  Also, you are setting benchmarks and parameters pretty much randomly.  How are you to know how long each step of the process will take, you’re taking it for the first time.  You set yourself up for disastrous results if you have too grey of a goal.  Better is to build what we call feedback loops.  It’s a simple way to measure your short-term success.  It can work in any field, and should be done about once a week.  It’s almost like a data collection method for yourself – how many guitar solos you can now play that you couldn’t a week ago, for the guitarist.  How many miles you ran for the runner.

Goals are the starting point, but quickly go into the system or the process.  You need the goal to then make your system, but once you have the system set, stick to it and adhere to the system.  The goal will come.

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