The "other" side of goal setting.
Updated: Jun 30
Goals and why I secretly hate them. Sort of...
As I’ve grown in my life and career, I’ve slowly but surely come to believe that hard goals - almost always do more harm than good. What do I mean by this? First, when creating a specific goal - (which will be achieved by some specified date), you set exact parameters for both success and failure. While this may sound constructive, there are hidden consequences of doing so.
One of these consists of the guilt and anxiety of not being on track. In other words, you measure your current progress and because you feel behind, you then attach a negative emotion to your current state. If we were to put this emotion into words - it might say: “if you want to be a success, you better step it up” or “you must be a failure, because you’re behind schedule.” These negative emotions then put you in a scarcity mindset and actually further erode your productivity, happiness in the now and overall life as a result. This is a dangerous cycle.
I know this, because for many years I did set big specific goals and as a result turned my days into a means to some imaginary end. The now is all we have and by doing this you literally burn your most important asset - time.
The other somewhat hidden consequence is the psychological connection between achieving a goal and being happy. While achieving things in life does often bring a sense of fulfillment, I think we all need to be careful about believing that goal achievement is the only way to happiness. This is also dangerous! Happiness - should not have contingencies.
The last negative consequence has to do with comparing your goals to others. This is also dangerous and again only fuels negativity! And there is no emotion more destructive than good old- negativity!
So what is the answer to this? How do we stay away from these negative consequences, while still moving forward? I think it has more to do with how we approach our days, then how we focus on our goals.
In other words, instead of extreme focus on goals and timelines, what if we were to set into motion a life practice - which included nurturing each of the areas we care about each day?
In my life, this is exactly what I have done and attempt each day to follow. Instead of far away goals, my days are focused on nurturing and caring for the pillars which I believe make up success (at least for me).
These are health, wealth, relationships and spirituality. So my days are specifically designed to focus my attention on each of these areas and to move each area forward in some small way.
For health, this might be a quick workout, for wealth, this could include looking at deals or growing my network. For relationships, this might be getting off early to hang with my wife and kids or giving grandpa a call, and finally for spirituality, this could be meditating or praying or going for a walk.
By approaching your days in a purposeful way, giving time to each area of your life which you value - you slowly build momentum and success. This “small wins” each day approach doesn’t only move you toward your desired life, but also sets into motion the compounding effect of consistent action.
“The compound effect is the strategy of reaping huge rewards from small, seemingly insignificant actions.” - Darren Hardy
A great example of this is when Travis and I decided to write a book. After getting clear on this desire, we decided to implement an hour each day toward “creative.” During this hour we write, edit and brainstorm. I’ll admit, we don’t always stick to this everyday, but nonetheless, the results have been amazing. Today, we are almost complete with the first draft and about 300 pages in! Small and consistent actions have indeed compounded quickly.
Note, I have to add - I’d be a hypocrite if I said I and our business are without goals... we do have goals, but with these I am careful on how we approach them. In other words, I am careful to attach my happiness to them, make my days a means to an end and/or compare myself to others. The truth is, while I type like I have the answer. I don’t, it’s a daily struggle and a daily practice of being in the now, while also driving forward. With that said, I think it’s absolutely worth discussing and practicing good control to create a life of gratitude for today alongside a passion for growth.
So maybe goals are not the enemy, but rather it’s how we approach them. So let them be a defined desire, a target, a distant destination. But to get there, start looking to your days as the answer. Your patterns and your small actions all feed the compounding effect...in a much more efficient manner than stressing in the now!