Our culture has become obsessed with results and not just results, but results that can be achieved quickly. Often times it seems as though the speed at which you can achieve any result, let alone the quality of that result, outweighs the result itself. It is also around this time of year that goals begin to get discussed a lot.
Goals are amazing, however, a hyper-focus on goals, coupled with our tendency to rush to accomplish goals or results can lead to a few different consequences:
(1) Quick burn-out
(2) Frustration at the time it is taking to accomplish goals
(3) A reliance on "results" as a means of defining our self-worth
(4) A feeling of emptiness and "on to the next one" mentality
Don't get me wrong, it is EXTREMELY important to set goals, and we should all set big and small goals, long-term and short-term goals, and even some scary goals for ourselves...getting into the college that you dreamed of attending, landing the graduate program you dreamed of being accepted into, completing an Ironman triathlon, getting the promotion you had sought for years, achieving the body you had wanted and pictured in your head, starting a family, buying a house, etc.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that once you accomplish a goal you set for yourself that you will feel the happiness, and contentment you have been waiting for but what happens once you have achieved your goal? What comes next? How do you feel once you have completed this goal? While there is certainly a period of time once you have accomplished your goal that you feel a true sense of pride and you are happy about the accomplishment you have made, but this spark of success and pride is quickly extinguished by your next and potentially bigger goal. If the completion of a goal led to self-fulfillment, why is it that after the initial pride wears off, we are still wanting more and still find ourselves longing for true happiness and fulfillment.
By focusing solely on the goal, and placing it on such a pedestal that it is the only thing in our life that matters to us there can be weeks, months, years, and in some cases decades that fly by without our true presence outside of activities related to this goal. What about the other aspects of your life? Your family? Your faith? Your friends? Your health and wellness? Your hobbies?
Personally, I have caught myself doing this on several occasions. A typical training cycle for me starts about 1.5 - 3 months before a race or competition. The first month of training I am usually pretty good about remaining present to other aspects of my life, but the week or two leading up the an event I tend to get so overly hyper-focused that it places a strain on my relationships and my work. This ability to hyper-focus is certainly a strength of mine, but learning how to stay present and focus on the process is a work in progress for me.
It takes a simple change in mindset about goals to become more present in all aspects of your life and thus achieve sustained and prolonged happiness and fulfillment. Set the same goals that you wish to accomplish, but instead of solely focusing on the end result become, obsessed with the day-to-day process that it will take to accomplish this goal. This means setting smaller daily, or even weekly goals that will help lead you to accomplish your larger goal. In doing this you will realize what day-to-day goals and habits will make you a better, happier person and allow you to be more present to other aspects of your life. Additionally, a focus on the process will allow you to realize the challenges that you may need to overcome throughout the process. It is experiencing and overcoming these challenges that allow us to grow as a person, and ultimately teach us more about ourselves than the mere accomplishment of the goal itself.
It is through an obsession with the process that we will be able to accomplish any goal we set our mind to while also allowing us to remain wholesome and present to the rest of our life and to our loved ones around us.
Next time you set a long-term goal, be sure to make process-oriented goals that will keep you on track to not just accomplish your goal but also make you a better, more present, well-rounded individual.
Fall in love with the process. When you have finally completed your goal you won’t look back and just be able to say you have accomplished some end result but rather you will look back and aknowledge that you have experienced and overcome challenges, you learned how you best respond to challenges to better overcome future challenges, and you experienced personal growth, all while living every day in the present moment.