Why You Need To Forget About Setting Goals

What matters most to you: enjoying what you do, or meeting your deadlines? I use the word deadlines because a goal is a deadline. It can be something you strive to do, finish, achieve or complete, meaning there is a end to it, exactly like a deadline. There is nothing wrong with having deadlines. Having an end date, and setting goals, or striving towards something for will increase your productivity. But in the long haul of things working towards only goals will slowly deteriorate at your passion.

Let me expand, goals are a great tool in itself, but they are limited in where they can take you. By this I’m referring to your potential opportunity, and how much enjoyment you receive from doing something. If you are set to a set goal, you close out the unlimited possibilities around that goal. Let’s say a friend calls you out to coffee, but you are on a deadline to finish your project. You could have missed a chance to invest into a start up company. This is just a broad example, but when you are one focused on one goal, your view becomes more narrow and begins to close; meaning you will close out potential opportunities.

Goals are great way to get to start doing what you love as they can provide initial motivation. But this will only last until you reach the point of your goal. For example, let’s say you had a financial goal in mind of wanting to buy a brand new car. From this point, there are only two possible outcomes. The two outcomes are: succeeding at your goal, or failing at your goal.

You Are Stuck With Only Two Outcomes

  1. The first outcome, is you achieve your goal and you buy yourself a brand new car. By doing this you will feel a sense of temporary accomplishment – this feeling dwindles down and vanishes even after a day(s). But, now that you have reached and completed your goal you are left with nothing. Once your goal is done, you have to move onto the next one otherwise you will feel stuck. So the question of what do you do next comes up? What is your next goal going to be? This is a monotonous system of one after the other.
  2. The second outcome, is you fail at meeting your goal, and don’t manage to buy yourself a new car. Leaving you unmotivated, upset and angry because you couldn’t meet your goals. Additionally, this can make you become harder on yourself and become really dependent on results which will take away from your ability to enjoy what you do. This can even make you stop doing what you love all together because of the possibility of failure, or from failure itself. And constantly dealing and facing failure can slowly take away your confidence and self-esteem in the process.

Regardless of the outcomes, both lead to some sort of personal disappointment at one point or another. This is why it’s important to apply your focus on the process instead of the goal.

For example, let’s take an example where you meet your goal. The goal is to have your art published in a gallery. In order for that to happen, you need to create a total of 25 pieces. So you set out and work towards this goal. After your hard work you end up with 25 pieces, and accomplish your goal. You have met your goal. Now what? Onto the next goal? It seems that even on the positive side of meeting your goals you still miss out of the point, because once you meet your goal, you are onto the next one. You neglect the process and enjoyment of painting because you are rushed by an immediate deadline looming over you.

Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.  ~ Brian Tracy

What You Should Focus On Instead Of Setting Goals

Instead, try focusing on the process. The process means to do what you love. Whatever it is that you love doing – just do it.

  • If you love painting, then paint
  • If you love writing, then write
  • If you love dancing, then dance

Do what it is that you love. It’s that simple. What matters is that you do what you enjoy so you can continue to do it. Love the process, forget the goal.

By doing this you will not burn yourself out and consider what you do as a chore.

When you start to focus on a goal, you will create expectations of a result. Kelly D. Brownell coined the term The Yo-yo effect in reference Yo-yo dieting. In which the person experiences weight loss, followed by weight gain, and constantly switching between the two. It resembles the back and forth (or up and down) motion of a Yo-yo. In the beginning the person will succeed at losing weight, but will fail long term at maintaining her weight causing the weight gain to come back. This is a great example of how goals work, and how they are can help you succeed short term. But long term, after constantly working towards a deadline, you will eventually fail (or begin to Yo-yo) because you are forgetting about the process. You are disregarding what you love, and replacing it with a time line.So instead of trying to set a goal to lose weight, find something that you love doing that will keep you physically active. Let’s say that you love playing basketball. Constantly playing basketball is going to help you lose weight because you are burning calories. And you no longer have to look for motivation to keep you going because you get to do what you love. You results will come in time, and meanwhile you get to play basketball.

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.  ~ Bruce Lee

How You Can Apply This To Habit Making

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~ Aristotle

Don’t have goals for your habits. Meaning you want to start doing “x” habit by this amount of time. Habits are a process, not a goal. Do not start a habit if you only have a sole goal in mind. This will make it hard to continue the habit, and with time you will want to quit. Continuing a habit for one reason is setting a deadline to what you do; with time you will stop that habit.

Your habits are like a journey; they are formed through constant experimentation, adjustments and growth that comes from within you.

So try it out, start small and don’t rush. Enjoy the process of whatever it is that you are doing whether its creating, writing, experimenting or creating new habits. Slow down, and focus on the process and enjoy the hell out of it. Don’t make it into a something you have to do, and don’t attach deadlines to your journey.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great thoughts here! I’ve set and failed to reach many writing goals this year, each time it makes me feel demotivated and unaccomplished. I have to make sure those feelings don’t bring me down because it’s due to a priority that is over writing like spending time with family or working. Writing for now is a side income/hobby so I can’t forsake my family or other responsibilities so that I can accomplish a writing goal. I keep in mind slow and steady progress will allow me to finish the projects I have.

    • says

      You’re very right here Dan. I had great expectations to finish “x” amount of articles within a certain period but failed to do so, and that left me feeling unmotivated to continue. So I’ve started less focusing so much on the result and working towards the enjoyment of writing.

      By doing this I get to focus on writing which I tremendously enjoy, and can sometimes use goals to push things further along.

      Thanks for your comment and thoughts Dan.

  2. Cody says

    Great Article Dragos. I find myself focusing on getting things done too much, and when I don’t I burn myself out and feel unmotivated. I’m going to give this a try!

    • says

      Thank you very much Cody.

      Ya it’s a very solid method for not burning yourself out, and you still get to manage doing what it is that you love doing. I’ve found not orienting myself around only goals was a great way for me to remain productive and enjoy my writing process.

  3. says

    Another problem with goals is that some just seem flat out unreachable.

    I set out to be a guitar player but knew it would probably take 5 years or more to get where I wanted to be. That feels like an eternity when you are just starting out, but if you just keep focused on the small daily tasks, time keeps on moving, and you keep on improving.

    • says

      Great input here Riz.

      I’m a huge advocate of small steps – http://selfhabit.com/fraction-habits/

      I’m also working on writing a guide on how to make small steps, so you can start doing what it is you want.

      For me, I want to read more but have always been overwhelmed, so I make a habit so small that I CANNOT fail. 1 page everyday, and then slowly increase from there.

      Keep on playing, and practicing Riz, you’ll get there! :)

  4. says

    Interesting and thoughtful take on goals, Dragos!

    From personal experience, I know how defeating setting goals can be when you aren’t achieving them often enough (or at all). That is where the power of small wins comes in to play. Small wins are those incremental progress steps toward your overall goal (like the small daily tasks Riz commented on). They help to keep you focused on your goal, while still enjoying the process because they provide you with moments to celebrate along the way.

    Ultimately, as Brian Tracy said, it is about finding the balance of thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values that works best for you and refining as you go.

    Best,

    Lolly

    • says

      Awesome comment Lolly.

      I’ve come to learn that enjoying the process, and establishing your own personal process that relate to your goals is ultimately the simplest, and most effective way to stay committed, and motivated throughout your “journey” if you will.

      Haha, balance is that thing we all are working for, as long as we persist, we’ll find out equilibrium :)

      Thanks for sharing Lolly,

      Dragos

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