The two articles, Forget about Setting Goals. Focus on this Instead and Growth Without Goals have had a profound impact on the way I look at my goals. The reflections I have had over the past probably 10 years of my ‘attempt’ at career growth have caused constant frustration and more than I would like to admit, discontentment. I have had to wrestle with the fact that some goals often do not and cannot measure up to my present or near-future responsibilities and over-analyzing this to the degree that I often do is not healthy. I am very blessed but I often act and pray like I am not.
I have only recently been able to calm down some on my personal expectations, as a result of becoming a father. I had no choice but to slow down and take it a day at a time for the first few years of my son’s life. It has been truly beneficial and necessary to focus on the basics for the time my son has been a newborn and through the first year of his life.
But, when I move out of the first season of sleeplessness and extra level of support necessary for a less-than-one year old, I am being reminded that I am a creature of habit. I want (need) a process and system that I can focus on. This is relevant for all categories of my life from work, family, spiritual, and physical health. In Growth without Goals I read, “Long-term thinking is really just goalless thinking. Long term ‘success’ probably just comes from an emphasis on process and mindset in the present. Long term thinking is also made possible by denying its opposite: short-term thinking.” In other words, relentless focus on ‘continuous, process goals’ is where my mind should focus its efforts. Letting the fruits of labor do its ultimate work will take care of the rest rather than focus on an ‘event-based’ goal.
For example, if I set a goal in my career to make $10k more within one year or run a half marathon by June 2017, these are event based goals and cause a lot of frustration for me when life throws curve balls. But, me, being a perfectionist will often obsess on these over-arching goals. This is what has happened over and over again in my adult life. I would set a career goal for growth and where I ‘want to see myself’ in 5, 10, or 15 years. And then, I would find myself laid off 6 months later in a bad economy. As you can imagine, I have not been able to keep that pace up.
So, for example, instead of setting un-reachable event based goals, I think about an ‘ideal’ like, I want to be a thought-leader in digital marketing. Then I consider my deliberate personal process, more like my discipline and tactics that I have implemented in my routines. This is where I put my focus. Then I put weekly or monthly goals and constantly ask myself, ‘Are the results worthy of this process?’ In some cases the answer will be, I’m not sure yet, but I’m enjoying myself so let’s keep going. In others, there may be a, nope, I can move on now. But, my response to my goal/ideal is more about ‘am I enjoying this? or am I noticing something improving in my daily habits?’. This is a much more desirable goal setting approach and one that allows for rest and trying different things.
I am reminded of how deliberate process played out with two interests that I had as a kid. One was legos and the other was basketball. When I was 3 and ferociously building a stadium and playing out different scenarios with my legos, I never once thought about the end goal of what I was doing. I simply enjoyed the creation process. Then as I got older and was interested in a competitive sport, basketball, I never put too much stock in what the end goal would be though I certainly thought it would be cool if…*you name it, I was all-conference, etc. I simply thought, I want to be good. And most of my daily process was, I want to get better. So, the hours spent in the gym working on drills or lifting weights was about the process, not the end goal. I knew that if I developed good habits that I could potentially be good, good enough to play and perform on the team and maybe more. My actual ‘ability’ was limited because I did not have the mental toughness that was required for basketball’s ups and downs. I was too sensitive. And so, even though I could drill 3-pointers on my driveway at home or at basketball camp, I could not consistently perform on the court in the same way. But, regardless of my ability, the process was beneficial. I did end up being a decent basketball player, at least for a very-small private school.
My basketball prowess is beside the point. Certainly understanding what some of the payoffs could be is helpful when we have limited time and resources. But in many cases this just cannot and will not be known until you work through the process of trial and error. I really want to stay focused on exploring, being present, and letting the results of disciplined process work out its good for itself.