Goals Suck

Over the last year and a couple weeks, I’ve been going through both a mental and physical transformation. In October of 2016, I decided I was going to get fit. In a different post, I mentioned I had set a goal for myself to run a marathon on my 50th Birthday. In the year and a few months that have transpired since then, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions:

1. I hate running. So much so that the idea of doing a marathon in the first place was a dumb idea. My thinking was, “think of the fitness thing you would hate to do the most, then overcome it by doing it.” Well, I hate running. It’s not the running so much that bugs me as it is the fact that the scenery does not change fast enough for me (at least not when it comes to long distance running). Like I said. . . .Stupid. Don’t get me wrong. I know some of you love it. Good for you! When it comes to fitness, we all have the things we like to do. Running just ain’t that thing for me.

2. Goals suck.

It’s this second conclusion I want to write about a little bit. In the last year, I’ve lost close to fifty pounds. I started out with a goal of getting to around 180 (when I stepped on the scale in October of 2016, I was about 235). It would be 55 pounds lighter than I was, and I knew I’d feel a whole lot better about myself in the process.

I was talking to a group of entrepreneurs a few weeks ago, and I said that I thought goals suck. Needless to say there were looks of confusion when I said it. I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’re wondering why I am not a fan. Here’s the thing: I think goals are important. I really do. But I think that when all we do is set goals and focus on the goal, it’s a recipe for failure.

The example that I gave in a podcast I was on recently¬†at Zenfounder where I brought it up again was that of all of these positive thinking techniques people have been preaching forever. They say to define your goals and keep them in front of you. In most cases they would state something about material wealth, or the body you want to have. If you want a Ferrari, find a picture of a Ferrari and put it somewhere that you’ll see it every day. If you want to have a certain kind of body, find a photo of someone with that type of body and put it where you can see it. The idea is that when you see it, it’ll motivate you. When you see it, it will be at the forefront of your mind. It will cause you to be or have that which is in the photo.

I CALL B.S.!!!!!

Here’s why, and here’s a far more likely scenario: You put those photos up around where you can see them. For a week or two, you get excited and you’re really motivated to do what it takes. And then, after you’ve seen the photos every day for a couple of weeks, you start taking stock and you realize that you’re not much closer to those goals. Instead, because you’re focused on the goals which you have not achieved, you start getting discouraged. Instead, when you focus on those photos, instead of them serving as inspiration, they serve as a reminder of what you have not accomplished yet. In other words, simply put: goals suck. With goals, you are failing until that point when you succeed. And then when and if you do succeed, you find yourself asking, “what’s next?” The high from achieving a goal is always short-lived.

Instead, I have found that my greatest successes (weight loss & fitness, for instance) have come when I focused on the process. When I look at the process and focus on that, I get to succeed until I give up. I’m more in control. If I make it to the gym today, it’s a success. It’s those successes that keep us from getting burned out. It’s those successes that help us to feel good about ourselves and keep us motivated. It’s the process that means everything; not the goal.

But back to goals for a second. Don’t take for a moment that I am saying that I don’t believe in them. I’m also not saying that we shouldn’t have them. I think we should. But I do think that we spend so much time focused on them that we forget that it’s a journey to get there. Take the time to enjoy the journey. Take the time to realize that every day, with just a bit of effort, we get to enjoy successes. Use those successes as the much needed fuel you need to get to your goal, because once you get there, what’s next?