We learn to set goals at a very young age. A goal is a thing, the object of an ambition or intense desire. It’s easy to set goals, but it’s difficult to actually execute and achieve them because it requires us to shape and direct our motivation. Why is it so hard? We struggle with creating habits and systems to ensure we are making progress. We also tie our happiness and satisfaction to the outcome of the goal itself, which leaves us in an endless pursuit of saying “I’ll be happy when I achieve X.” There is a problem with being too goal-oriented; the paradox is that we cannot always control the future and thus our outcome, but we can always control our progress through consistent action.
So how do you create a goal-setting system that will help you not only get what you want, but also feel satisfied and motivated on a daily basis? The trick is to stop focusing on the end point and instead start focusing on your process. If you can feel good about your daily actions working toward something important to you, it will help you stay on track.
Examples of a process surrounding a goal:
- Goal: Lose weight.
Process: Meal planning and portion control.
- Goal: Run a marathon.
Process: Create and stick to a training program.
- Goal: Buy a house.
Process: Creating a budget to save money.
Goals are just a point on a map to start you moving in a different direction. Once you start down a new path, enjoy the experiences, the unknowns, and even the setbacks.
6 Steps to Love the Process
When you focus on the process instead of the goal, you will start to feel better and in control over the current work you are doing, instead of delaying happiness once the milestone is achieved. Here are some strategies:
Start small with something you know you can achieve. Self-confidence is your perception of your ability; the more you do, the more you believe you can do. That will help you set loftier goals. If you can’t achieve what you set out to do, start with something easier.
Make a Commitment, Not a Promise
After a few weeks of working toward a goal, it can be easy to let yourself off the hook. A commitment is non-negotiable: when you get married, you commit to your partner; when you have to be at work between certain hours, you are committed to it. There is no “well, maybe I won’t be committed today because I don’t feel like it.” Cut off excuses the moment they start.
Be Specific to Create a Framework
For example, say: at this time, this many days a week, I will do x for this many minutes. Put it in your calendar so you see it regularly and have already allocated time. It’s harder to opt out of something scheduled.
It’s easier to stick to a habit when you add it on to an existing habit. Some examples would be flossing your teeth after you brush them or doing core work before your run.
Getting Off Track
You made a commitment with the best intentions but sometimes you make mistakes. Say you are trying to lose weight and swore off chips… and you “accidentally” eat a whole bag! One mistake doesn’t mean you have to start over. Simply pick up immediately where you left off in your process. Examine what triggered you to break your new habit so you can course-correct. To achieve your goal, you don’t have to be 100% perfect with your process but you do have to trend in the right direction. Practice self-compassion but don’t let yourself off the hook.
Is it Working?
Create a support network around you with like-minded individuals to help keep you accountable and motivated. Measure your progress by looking back at what you have accomplished each week instead of looking forward and seeing how far you have to go.
Sonya Looney is a World Champion Mountain Biker and a podcaster, speaker, and expert in the fields of plant-based nutrition, mindset, and adventure travel. Through taking on the world’s hardest mountain bike challenges, Sonya applies lessons learned from the trail to everyday life to inspire personal growth and a positive headspace.
Article was published in The Good Life magazine.