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How to Achieve Your Goals: Objectives versus Process

How do you achieve your goals? Most people use the same approach that Julius Caesar applied to conquering the city of Zela in 47 BC. He himself described it as “I came, I saw, I conquered”. We often try to do the same with our goals – we come, we choose a goal, and we leap into action – until we accomplish it or… see a different goal.

This is a straight-forward, result-oriented method that many goal setting experts and programs talk about.

I used to apply it myself and I can tell you that it works for some short-term goals and for people who have an unstoppable will to win. I’m not one of these people, so I would often find myself struggling to stick with long-term goals that required consistency.

If you don’t have an iron will, you should have strong inner motivation that will drive you forward through challenges and setbacks.

But in regular life, it’s hard to reach goals on motivation alone. Because motivation, like any other emotion comes and goes. One day you may feel on top of things and the other you may find yourself procrastinating.

I used to think that it was my fault. You may be thinking the same thing right now – blaming yourself for the lack of motivation, lack of energy or lack of knowledge on how to achieve your goals…

Well, it’s not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you.

It is just that there is one piece of the puzzle missing in this popular Goal Setting Theory. You have been taught how to achieve your goals, but told to focus on the wrong thing.

Let me explain it by giving an example…

How to Achieve Your Goals the Hard Way

Imagine that your goal is to swim across a lake over to a tree that grows on the opposite shore. That tree becomes your destination point. Your ultimate goal, towards which you will direct your focus.
Now imagine yourself swimming towards it, taking one stroke after another and mentally measuring the distance between you and the tree on the opposite shore.

Your legs are doing a kicking motion, you push your body forward with every stroke, your heart races, but the other shore still seems very far away…

What thoughts are running through your mind? How do you feel? Tired? Disheartened? Frustrated?

This is how most people feel when they try to achieve important long-term goals. They may be eager to start with, but when they don’t see immediate results of their actions, they begin to feel overwhelmed, tired and frustrated.

The main reason is – we focus on the wrong thing!

We treat Goal Setting as a result oriented process.

This is a Western, head-forward approach. As I told you, it works, but not for all goals and not for most people.

Why? Because accomplishing any worth-while goal takes time. It takes continues effort. If you focus on the end result, then every second you don’t have your goal feels like failure.

Now let’s take a weight loss goal of losing 20 pounds in 3 months. To get there most people would limit their calorie intake by giving up some unhealthy foods and start exercising.

This is what it usually looks like. First thing in the morning, after going to the bathroom, we tuck our stomach in and step on the scales, wearing nothing but underwear.

Then we begin our weight lose plan. An apple for breakfast instead of a chocolate croissant – 310 calories saved. Taking the steps instead of the elevator – 50 calories burned. 30 minutes of jogging after work – 357 calories burned. The look on our face the next morning, when we realize that we have lost only 0.2 pounds – priceless.

It’s hard to stick with your weight loss routine, when you weigh yourself and realize that your extra pounds have not ‘melt’ away the way you thought they would.

It’s downright demotivating and no motivational book on how to achieve your goals is going to change that. Why? Because every time you ask yourself “Am I there yet?” and the answer is “no”, a small part of your enthusiasm and motivation dies.

Focusing on the end result is a sure-fire way to slowly kill your motivation, make you believe that your goals are too hard to achieve.

Fortunately, there is a different, wiser approach to Goal Setting.

Solution: Focus on the Process

Instead of focusing on the end result, focus on the process. Of course, you still have to be clear about what you want. But your goal should be more of a lighthouse that directs your actions and keeps you on the right track.

Let’s take the swimming metaphor to make the Focus-oriented approach easier to grasp and apply to other goals. Picture focusing on the process as you swim. Enjoy the water… the movement… the sunshine on your skin. Once in a while glance at the tree to adjust your course if necessary, and switch your attention back to swimming.

100% frustration becomes 100% enjoyment!

The same is true for any weight loss goal – especially if you want to lose weight for life and not for an event.

Forget about counting calories and starving yourself on fad diets. Go on a quest for healthy and tasty recipes. Join forums on organic eating. Educate yourself on toxic, disease-promoting ingredients that companies add to extend the products’ shelf life and boost flavor. Explore new fruits and vegetables that you have never tried before. Make a list of your favorite activities. Go dancing. Go biking. Take a long, relaxing walk on the weekend. Throw the damned scales away or at least give it to your friend to keep for a month. Then weigh yourself and see the real difference!

What are your thoughts? Have you figured out how to achieve your goals and have fun in the process?

  • KKR
    December 9, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Great one Arina! Thanks so much! 🙂

  • Jeff Jones
    December 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I definitely agree with a lot of this. Having the end result in mind will of course be something that you will focus on for a small bit in order to start heading in the right direction, but obsessing over it is another factor that can hold us back from what it is that we want.

    Focusing on the small things we can enjoy and do every single day is a much better way to live and quicker way to find our end results. The small successes and celebration of them are what keep us motivated! Another good post, keep it up! 🙂

    – Jeff Jones

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