An Inquiry Into Success: Why You Don’t Need Goals and What to Focus on Instead

I feel refreshed after my hiatus from writing even though I cheated; I wrote when I wasn’t supposed to.

But to my surprise I wrote more words than ever before.

I wanted to get to the bottom of how I managed to pull it off.

So, I tracked back and measured my performance. I reflected on what I did and more importantly how I did it.

Today I have the answer and I’d like to share it with you.

Many of us were taught to think that in order to accomplish anything in life we need to have some sort of goals.

But I no longer believe that’s the case.

I believe in order to sustain long-term productivity you need to have an process.

And I’ll tell you shortly why.

Leading Up To My Discovery

In the months I have been mentally burned-out, as a result I have been searching aimlessly for any kind of inspiration, motivation, and methods so I could write more.

I’ve come to quickly realize that this search is never-ending.  Searching for any external motivation, inspiration, techniques, or methods to write more are counterproductive, and become detrimental with time.

Let me expand by saying that I don’t completely disagree with what they might offer short-term, but they ignore the real issue at hand.

The issue being, a process tailored for you, to provide long-term sustainable productivity that doesn’t lead to any sort of negligence.

You will find the more dependent you become on external methods, the less likely you will internalize confidence, creativity, or value in what you do.

What Am I Talking About?

In April, I wrote a total of 15 articles. A feature for myself, and something that I was proud of.

Only to find later this feeling was temporary and had gone away in less than a couple of hours. Oh the joy.

I was only concerned with one result-driven goal in mind, to write one article every other day.

As a result, I forgot about myself, my needs, the process, my environment and surroundings, and any sense of reward system.

What I thought was a feature for myself lead to me turning into an autonomous writing machine stripped of any enjoyment.

It’s no wonder I burned-out.

You Won’t Sabotage Yourself When You Work For Yourself

So what’s the solution if goals don’t cut it?

A process.

In other words, imagine a self-tailored system that will synchronize to your desires, abilities, and respond accordingly to your behavioral habits.

Let’s find out why a goal is restrictive in its nature.

For example, when you have a goal in mind you willingly tell yourself the following: “I have to do this” , or  “I need to do this by x date” .

Psychologically you put yourself in a box by saying this. The result? You become a prisoner in your own reality.

When you are told that you have to do something (with or without a deadline), the natural response is to become defenseless.  And in return you will rebel in any way just to demonstrate that you possess a sense of control.

This can have a few outcomes, but more than likely you find yourself to procrastinate, switch to another goal, or worse, give up completely on your goal.

Guess why I didn’t write for almost 2 months?

It was because of the goals I set for myself. They put me into a have-to situation which immediately had me on the defense. In a last attempt to rebel against my situation, I’d demonstrate a false sense of “control” over my situation and rebel by sabotaging my own goal.

It was the only way I could show who was in control, but in the grand scheme of things I wasn’t doing any meaningful work at all.

How to Discover Your Process

In order for an process to begin, you have to specifically determine your goal.

  • If your goal is to write a book, then your  process is to write.
  • If your goal is to lose weight, then your process is to exercise.
  • If your goal is to become better at basketball, then your process is to play basketball.

No matter what your goal may be, your process is the action directly related to you goal.

Once you have discovered your process, the next towards establishing a successful process is to start.

It doesn’t matter how. The only part that matters is that you start.

This can be achieved by creating a fraction-starting process.

That’s it.There are no extra tricks,  gimmicks, or purchases you have to make in order for this to work.

The gist of it is that you minimize the trigger (or cue to begin your action) so you can guarantee that you will start.

Starting is The Key to Your Progress

In order to do anything, you have to start.

Thinking won’t produce results, actions will.

A thoroughly researched and proven effect, The Zeigarnik Effect, states that it is in our human nature to continue something once we have begun otherwise we experience dissonance.

In other words, you are more likely to continue your work as long as you begin your task.

Alina Vrabie says: “The Zeigarnik Effect means good news for procrastinators: you are less likely to procrastinate once you actually start a task. You’re more inclined to finish something if you start it. So how do you actually get started? It depends on what kind of procrastinator you are. If you’re likely to procrastinate because you’re faced with a big project, then don’t think about starting with the hardest chunk of work. Start with what seems manageable in the moment. You’ll be more likely to finish the task simply because you started.”

How you start is all up to you.

Minimize the Trigger of Your Work, So You can Always Start

After minimizing my trigger, I brought it down to a tiny amount of 50 words a day.

That’s less than a tweet.

Anyone can do that.

That’s it.

Simple isn’t it?

All you have to do is start small, and momentum will pick up along the way.

Almost every time I started writing my trigger of 50 words a day,  I would continue into hundreds, even thousands of words thanks to our trusty friend, The Zeigarnik Effect

Why a Process is leads to Long-Term Productivity

A process has no finish line, doesn’t come with any pressures to perform, hold high expectations of what-if, or have any possibilities to failure.

And to measure my progress, I compared the words that I wrote for this month.

The words written on my “break” resulted in 11,378 words.

After comparing between my last few months, my productivity has increased by nearly over 493%.

Just take a moment to think of how significant that is.

For example, by the time I finished today’s writing I had managed to write 1833 words.

All in one day.

With no pressure hanging over my shoulders.

Go With The Flow

Give it a fair trial.

Try everything and anything.

Find what gets you into the groove, and you’ll find your own momentum.

Discover and try things that may seem weird to you. Try going for a walk, taking a nap, or meditation

It really doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you find what works for you.

The bottom line is to have fun and experiment with what works.

You don’t want your process to feel like a rigid goal.

The intention is to create a process that you can enjoy, gives creative freedom, and will still allow you to have fun and not make it seem like work – that’s how you immerse yourself in meaningful work.

Engulf yourself within your work, and the goals will take care of themselves.

Your Action Plan

    

1.  The “If-Only” Mentality Becomes Established in Your Life. Something You Don’t Want

Here is why goals will limit your potential. Goals are developed for the future, which makes them not present.

They’re not something you’re working with, but rather working for.

They are not tangible. You either meet your goal, or you don’t.

Put simply, you are working for an “if” , incase certain criteria and standards are met then you will have reached your goal.

For example, “If” I do this, then I will be ______ (Successful, happy, skinnier, healthier) and so on.

But what about after you’re done your goal?

What do you do then?

The loopback reward system is for goals are low, and offer very little.

One of the reasons why so people burnout so often, and can’t establish a habitual pattern with goals.

The results are often temporary and offer brief satisfaction. Then you’re onto the next.

This is in the case that you complete your goals, as there is always a chance of failing.

And let’s not kid ourselves, few people can take failure as a learning lesson.

For most, failure is a defining moment in their life which can lead to loss in motivation, creativity, or even the pursuit of their passion.

2.  Yo-Yo “Goaling”

I’ve touched on yo-yo dieting in my upcoming e-book (a free-subscriber giveaway)

In weight loss trials after the patients goal weight was accomplished (losing 20 pounds), they would complete their previous goal, and fall back on their old habits.

Usually what followed after was an increase in their weight as they were no longer monitoring their weight.  The would then recommit themselves to the same goal they had previously in order to lose weight.

A redundant trap that has no progress.

This Yo-Yo Effect would continually sway between weight loss and weight gain, and the cycle would continually repeat itself.  There was no long term success due to these short-lived goals.

This is because there was no intention on the bigger picture, and instead was placed on a much smaller focus (losing weight). The focus should have been placed on choosing to live a healthier lifestyle, and incorporating an process to help you achieve this.

Since meeting a goal has two states: completion or failure, there is a high chance of becoming bored with the current goal. In this case, our brains are wired to switch to something more “interesting”.

This may mean switching to something less mundane, and then a follow up of your previous goal, usually switching between the two or multiple goals.

The result is once again the Yo-Yo Effect, which impedes any chance at long-term success.

3.  The More the Merrier? That’s Not the Case With Goals

A concept known as goal dilution has discovered that having additional goals will undermine your ability to complete the goals you wanted.

In other words, the more goals that you set for yourself, the less likely you will be to achieve any of them.

In contrast, solely focusing on one goal will result in a higher chance of success.

Focus on your process, refine it to your liking, and you’ll conquer any goals you set for yourself.

4.  Your Happiness Matters More Than Your Results

Compare a goal and a process to a destination verses the journey.

Assuming you end up getting where you want (destination), what’s the point if you’ve missed everything along the way? (the journey)

This will come as no surprise to you but neither of us can control or predict the future.

Most of us can’t even predict what we’re going to have for lunch.

So why spend time setting concrete goals when we live in an unpredictable universe?

Have you ever tried blocking your day into 30 minute time-frames, between tasks to do, goals to meet, so that your whole day goes exactly as you want it?

Let me ask you, does it ever go exactly the way you plan it?

Instead, try and embrace the uncertainty of today.

Improvise and let your day be open.

You’ll never know what may happen.

Be Your Own Representative

Goals may not be as bad as I make them out to be.

If goals work for you, then by all means don’t let me stop you.

I’m not saying goals are completely bad – they do have a purpose.

But there is a smarter way of doing things.

Goals are great for people to get a start somewhere in their life. They’re also great for short-term goals (a few days at most), or for giving your life short-term structure.

Just don’t expect any sustainable growth with goals.

Instead, win for today.

Don’t worry about tomorrow or what lies ahead.

Work on improving what got you here. Your process.

Your results will come when you refine the system that dictates your behavior.

And remember, work isn’t supposed to be boring,  dull, or painful. There’s always some tweak to add fun. There’s always an ingredient you can add to make it enjoyable.

Create a process so simple and easy, that it can’t fail.

That’s when the results will come.

Make it so damn easy that you won’t say no.

You just gotta start.

That’s it.

Go.


Over to you: What are your thoughts on goals? How do you use goals for yourself? Have you ever tried a process, and if so, how has it helped? Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments. 

Sources:  1. Goal Dilution

Thank You to Nadia and Holly for looking over the article for me.

 

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Comments

  1. Cody says

    Awesome article Dragos!

    Really enjoyed everything here and thanks for the insight into your life. It made sense to be able to compare the between my life and this

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