Find Out Why Setting Goals Is All About Process
By Jessica Lee. Jessica is a writer, speaker and business consultant. She is the owner of The Spark Effect and runs online and face-to-face training for corporate teams and business owners.
When you set powerful goals, celebrate the process— and yourself.
Setting goals gives your life focus, but do you feel successful only when you achieve, and a failure when you don’t?
For a long time, I felt this way. I loved goal setting. I loved the high and feeling of success that flowed, and I did whatever it took to reach my goals. That is, until pushing hard came at a cost.
Six months after graduating with First Class Honours, I became very sick and was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. I thought it would take six months to recover. It took seven years. No goal is worth losing your health like that.
So I stopped goal setting altogether and went with the flow instead. This didn’t work either. Without goals, my life lacked challenge, excitement and inspiration. I no longer wanted to be outcome-focused at the expense of myself, and I no longer wanted to tie my identity to the results. So I redefined success. Simply having a goal to work towards became the inspiration I needed to take meaningful action. Yet the answer wasn’t in the results, it was in the process, because without the goals, I wouldn’t have moved closer to the things I valued and want in life.
Redefining failure and success
Dr Carol Dweck, a renowned psychologist specialising in mindset research believes people have either a growth or fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset, she says, define success as development, growth and improvement, irrespective of the final outcome. A growth mindset is “… not about immediate perfection. It’s about learning something over time: confronting a challenge and making progress.”
People with a fixed mindset on the other hand, define success as the achievement of a specific outcome. They believe they should “be” something instead of “become” something. Dweck says that this makes people fearful of trying challenging things. The act of failure means they are a failure and it stops them moving forward.
That was me. I was a fixed mindset goal setter. Then I learnt to let go of the final outcome and choose goal setting as an opportunity to grow and learn. I felt energised and excited about this.
When you shift your focus from the outcome to the process, you adopt a loving and compassionate approach. Setting loving goals allows you to be less critical of yourself and feel confident and motivated as you track towards your goal.
4 steps to setting loving goals
- Find your “sweet spot”. Neuroscientist Dr Sarah McKay, from Your Brain Health, says the ideal condition for peak brain performance, learning and motivation occurs when you find your “sweet spot”: when you are neither under- nor over-challenged. McKay advocates choosing goals that stretch you, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed or highly anxious.
- Be flexible and values driven. Choose goals that internally motivate you, that excite and inspire rather than goals you feel you “should” achieve that are designed to make others happy. Kat Millar, a life, fitness and business coach from Get Results Training, suggests to set goals within your highest values. You’re more likely to achieve those goals “because they are aligned with what is important and meaningful to you.” It also makes flexibility easier. There are times in life when circumstances outside your control get in the way of you achieving your goals. When you know what value you’re expressing through your goal, you can always find a new way to keep progressing towards it, and don’t need to feel bad when your goals shift or change. Millar says, “One of the consistent skills in people who achieve their goals is an amazing level of persistence. They change their approach as necessary — but they won’t give up on their ultimate vision.”
- Celebrate no matter the outcome. Celebrate the transformational journey you have been on. World- famous tennis player Roger Federer lives this philosophy. In an interview during the Australian Open he said that regardless of whether he wins or loses a tournament he goes out for dinner to celebrate with his team.Celebrating the journey of your goal allows you to feel good about yourself, to stay motivated and inspired to set new goals that keep stretching you.
- Develop your emotional intelligence. Reflection is a powerful tool in the goal- setting. Ask yourself: Could I have done things differently? Could I have stepped up more? What got in the way? Your brain is wired to try to keep you safe and stop you from taking steps that challenge your comfort zone, so be honest about where you might be holding yourself back. By looking deeper at what stops you, you’ll build your emotional intelligence, allowing you to take that powerful knowledge into your next goal. Knowing what allows you to thrive is equally important, so make sure to ask yourself what worked.
Achieving goals not only moves your life forward in significant ways but expands your belief in what you are capable of.
Goal setting, it’s about who you become in the process.
Questions for the Goal Setting Process
- Be specific. What do I want to achieve, why does it matter and what value am I pursuing?
- Consider problems. What obstacles might I face as I pursue my goal?
- Take action. What steps could I take to overcome these obstacles?
- Reflect. How have I grown as I have pursued my goal and in what ways did I hold myself back?
- Cultivate kindness. How will I celebrate what I achieved — whether or not I reached my goal?