…And Why It Shouldn’t


Quick Takes:

  • Goals take a long time to achieve
  • Work on the process of achieving them
  • What can you do today to get you one step closer to your goal?
  • Don’t view your goal as a daunting, long-term task
  • View it as a chance for daily improvement – which should be the ultimate goal

I’m a planner, but I’m a flexible one. I love to sit down, look at goals, look at the calendar, and figure out how and when those goals will be achieved.

I love logistics. I enjoy setting a date, and then systematically working my way back from that future date and figuring out what needs to get done: each day, week, and month.

What I’ve quickly discovered, however, for better or for worse, is that I rarely achieve my goals within the strict constraints I give myself. Almost always the date I set needs to be pushed out – or the goal needs to be toned down – so it can be achieved within the timeframe I want.

Does this happen to you?

I’m constantly beating myself up about this fact of life. But, as I began to research goal setting, and began talking to high achievers, I realized that this was more of a common problem than I originally thought. A lot of people, from all levels of motivation, seem to have a problem with the achievement of goals within the time they want.

Why is this so? I’ve definitely heard stories of people deciding to do something incredibly hard and amazing, and then a week later, something serendipitous happens which launches them toward their goal.

Why, then, doesn’t that happen to us?

Well, in a sense, it does! We just aren’t looking in the right places, placing too much weight on the goals we miss and underweighting the goals we achieve in the timeframe we wanted. It’s this fallacy of success that causes us downplay our achievements and lament over our inability to “do anything right.”

Taking a Step Back

For me, goal setting usually involves some business-related endeavor, although not always so. Staying active and nutritious, for example, are some other goals I’m passionate about. For you, it can be literally anything: losing weight, reading more, socializing more, getting a raise, etc.

When I’m starting a business project, I’m immediately psyched; almost to the point where I can’t sleep, like, at all. Translating that feeling into momentum, I immediately fall into a few planning traps, which throws off the timeframe in which I set goals:

1. I have too much momentum (is that even possible?)
2. Because of that momentum, I set some pretty lofty goals
3. Because of my insatiable desire to achieve those goals, I don’t set realistic dates for completion
4. Because of my insatiable desire for achievement, I underweight my reliance on third-parties
5. All of these traps combine together in a perfect storm, and I’m unable to achieve my goal in the timeframe I want

But, if we truly believe that the journey is the destination, and that we should be process oriented, then how can we reconcile this

with the fact that we are motivated, and we want to achieve lofty goals?

Our focus needs to shift, from one of future goals to one of daily improvements.

Goal setting is important, and is something we should always do. But, once the goal is set, rather than maintaining a focus on the future, or looking “down the road”, we should be looking at the day-to-day. What one thing can we do today that will move us in the direction of our goals?

The only way we will ever achieve a goal isn’t by setting some insane personal due date, as I often do, but through a systematic movement forward. But, at risk of contradicting myself, setting a goal is still an important part of the achievement process. I mean, by definition, it’s impossible to achieve a goal you haven’t set.

So first, set a goal. Don’t give it an insane due date, but do give it a due date that makes you feel a little uncomfortable. All goals should have a timeframe that make you question whether or not you’ll be able to achieve it, at least a little.

Then, keeping the end date in mind, shift your focus. What actions today, when taken, will compound into further action tomorrow, which will compound into even more action next week, etc.?

Your goal, although it has a timeframe in which you’d like to complete it, should be broken down into mini goals, with a focus on daily improvement. Then, if you do end up missing your goal’s end date, you’ll know you did everything right in moving toward your goal. You’re not a failure, it just going to take more time than expected to accomplish your goal.

In this sense, as long as you’re putting in consistent and meticulous work, and moving one step closer to your goal, everyday, than you are achieving your goal.

Using the quick example above, where people seem to “serendipitously” achieve their goals in a faster timeframe than expected, it usually only seems this way from the outside looking in. Odds are that these people have spent months, even years, moving toward their goal, and the serendipity of a single event has been a long time coming.

Even more, often times, when someone sets a brand-spankin new goal, and puts it out into the ether in the form of The Law of Attraction, what even they don’t realize is that while they haven’t known about their new goal for years, they’ve been consistently putting in the pre-work for success.

It’s like the accidental entrepreneur vs the one that only achieved entrepreneurship after 10 years of trying. The accidental entrepreneur may very well have been working for startups his whole life, with no desire to break out on his own, until some significant or “serendipitous” event changed his mind. The long-term entrepreneur, while wanting to start a business her whole life, needed ten years of working in and around startups to gain the business knowledge needed to be successful.

So while the time it took to achieve each of their goals – from inception to achievement – varies, the 10 years of pre-work was the same.

What’s more, if we look at those around us, and compare ourselves to them, we naturally focus on our failures rather than our successes. The long-term entrepreneur will look at the accidental entrepreneur and think, “what a failure I am for not being like that person!”

What a fallacy of belief. Rather, the long-term entrepreneur should look at herself and be immensely proud for all they’ve achieved – both the achievement of their goal as well as the process it took to get there.

The Summation of Experience

All we are is a summation of our experiences. If we look at our experiences as inherently positive, it will prove to us that we do achieve goals, and that we are successful. We’ll know that we tried out best to become the best version of ourselves, and that  any goal we set out to achieve will be an inevitability.

In this way, we can’t help but love the process of getting there. Be confident in yourself, and be happy that you have the ability to learn and grow, so that even your most lofty ambitions will be realized. Don’t lament that your goals are taking too long, rejoice that your goals are lofty, and attainable by only the most dedicated!

 

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  • Peter Gillam

    Another good post. My wife actually put me on the challenge of writing something and submitting it to her every Monday. This is in hopes to improve my writing and to build content for our website/blog/podcast we are currently creating. I am embracing more of the approach of doing little things daily. It doesn’t always have to be huge, but over time things build up and you begin to realize all that you accomplished. In the last three months my wife and I have purchased a new car, I joined toastmasters, she is doing financial peace university, did our first podcast interview and were expecting our next child. It didn’t seem like a whole lot but once you reflect you see the progression and it inspires you to go further because you know you are able.

    • Evan Tarver

      Thanks Peter!

      It’s all about the compound effect as I’ve quickly come to find.

      What’s your podcast / blog about? Sounds like you’re on the right track with a mindset that’ll make it successful.

      PS I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan. Haven’t taken FPU, but am an avid listener to his daily podcast as well as the Entreleadership podcast.

      • Peter Gillam

        We are doing one on marriage & family. We call it Against The Swarm. Our “why” is to inspire others to reach their full potential by fighting against the swarms of life (debt, poor communication, family issues, etc.)

        • Evan Tarver

          That’s awesome. I’m unmarried, but I should probably start doing some research 🙂

          Let me know when it comes out!