Why You Won’t Reach Your Goal— And How To Fix It.

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Start a successful business…

Lose weight…

Make more money…

These are all goals we’ve probably set for ourselves at some point in time. Most likely, we are striving for some form of them right now.

Unfortunately, only a small percentage of us will actually reach the top of the mountain.

The rest of us, are destined to be in a constant loop of failing to stick to our plan long enough, giving up, starting a new plan, failing to stick to the plan…

Despite that, the most interesting thing to me is that, for the most part:

Furthermore:

Those are all quotes from the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, and above all, personally, they shine a light on what we shouldn’t focus on.

Because, for the most part, goals have the sole purpose of guiding us towards the habits that will allow us to achieve them.

The Goal Is Only 1% Of The Process

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The best example I can think of, to show why the “End-goal focused” approach doesn’t work, is the way the tv show “The Biggest Loser” plays out.

If you’ve never watched it, this is how it goes:

  1. Extremely overweight people join a house with the sole goal of losing weight
  2. Their environment is set for them with personal trainers, workout plans, healthy foods, and a big incentive to lose weight(money).
  3. They lose drastic amounts of weight week by week, completely transforming themselves.

However, what they don’t show you, of course, is what happens after they come home.

After everything around them is trying to pull them down instead of lifting them up.

What happens, obviously, is that they gain most of, if not all, of their original weight back.

This happens because they focused on the wrong thing.

Instead of looking to properly set their habits, in their current environment, with all the distractions that the world around provides, they went for the approach that most of us fall prey to.

That is, to look for the fastest way to get to “the top of the mountain”, neglecting what happens after we get there.

What’s a better way to approach our goals?

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To avoid falling all the way back to where we started, after we reach our end goal, the following is what I truly believe we should do.

1. Measure Success By Your Actions and Not by External Results

What I mean by this is that, after we’ve identified the actions that will lead us to our desired objective, we must define success as if we completed them or not. As opposed to: “Did the work I put in provided me the result I desired?”

We should do it this way because, what happens when we define success by the external results we achieve is that, first of all, it becomes very easy to get discouraged by not seeing any sort of change in the beginning.

Secondly, this promotes cutting corners.

If you fail to do your workout on Monday you say to yourself that you’ll just change it to Tuesday, and if you fail to then follow up, you then increase the intensity to reach the defined weekly goal.

However, what happens when you achieve your ultimate goal? (if you even manage to do so by taking this approach).

Will you keep doing the work required to maintain the progress?

If not, then what will happen is that when there is nothing to strive for, and if the habits haven’t been defined, then you are looking at a slippery slope right back to the beginning.

Now, if your goal is to workout 3 times per week, doing 3 sets of the defined exercises for 5 reps each, increasing by 2–10% of the weight lifted every week, then, first of all, your success always depends 100% on yourself.

Secondly, reaching the top of the mountain will come as an “accident” of having set these proper habits, allowing you to keep making progress, and most importantly, maintain the one you’ve made so far.

2. Let go of the need to even get to the top

When we place all of our happiness and meaning in a future goal to be achieved we are doing a disservice to ourselves.

To start, we are ensuring most of our days will be miserable until we achieve whatever it is we set out to do. We won't be grateful for what we already have, adopting instead a mindset of “I’ll be grateful when I achieve X”.

This will lead to a tendency to neglect our family, friends, health, etc. until we “make it”.

By consequence, even if you achieve your desired outcome, you will have created many more problems in your life then when you first started, that now, you have to solve.

On top of that, you will find that the top of this mountain won’t fulfill you for long. As a matter of fact, it might leave you feeling completely empty.

Devoid of meaning.

With all of that in mind, the conclusion I come to is this:

At the end of the day, there is always a bigger mountain to climb, a bigger obstacle to overcome, and for the better or worse, 99% of the time is spent putting in the work to get there.

And if 99% of the time is NOT enjoying the view, then to me, it becomes pretty clear what we should actually be focusing on.

I hope it became clear to you as well.

Written by

Stoicism & Philosophy | Building @pathsofmeaning

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