It’s a new year, and that means new opportunities to be the best version of yourself, to grow, learn and improve! Setting goals has traditionally been a big part of our new year reflections and celebrations – but could we be doing something even better?
Setting new year goals often lead us to fail early in the year as we give up on our goals before we have even started, setting the tone for a sense of failure. Let’s take a slightly different approach this new year, and focus on the journey instead of the destination.
Small changes to your perspective can make a big difference to your success.
For some of us, setting goals can be incredibly motivating, boosting our confidence and helping us to achieve success. Goals can be a great tool to drive us forward. But there are also times when setting goals has completely the opposite effect; overly ambitious goals can decrease our motivation and knock our confidence, setting us up for failure.
There are certain scenarios in which we really should refrain from setting goals, such as:
When your goals become addictions. The workaholics among us can find themselves jumping from one massive goal to the next, with little room to breathe. While achieving the goals is not bad in itself, this goal-driven orientation in life can lead to the development of unhealthy habits which cause breakdown in other areas of life, including relationships, hobbies, and basic self-care. You find yourself focused only on the achievement or the outcome, and forget to take in every part of the journey. An obsession with achieving goals can also make us more likely to step into dishonest territory, as the ‘how’ of achieving goals starts to matter less than the fact that we achieve them.
When you don’t know what you want. When we set goals based on other people’s expectations of us, we are unlikely to carry them out or see them through. We may also set goals according to what we think we want. It can be very disappointing to work hard for something only to find that we don’t really want or enjoy what we have achieved.
When goals are disconnected from a larger purpose. Our goals should be stepping stones or milestones towards a larger purpose, goal or destination. When we create goals in isolation, unconnected to a bigger picture, they become difficult to follow through on, and we struggle to see the reason for them and to find the motivated to stick with them through the difficult times.
When you are trying to control what you cannot. We cannot predict the future, or someone else’s actions. When it comes to relationships, we are only a part of the equation, and we can only act and make decisions for ourselves. When our goals move into this realm, we need to make them together with the people who are affected by them.
When you think attaining your goal will bring you happiness. Many of us believe that once we have done X or achieved Y, we will be happy. You may think that once you own your own practice and can set it up in the way you think best you will be happy and effective as a Vetrehabber. But the truth is, if we cannot find joy in the place we are, it is unlikely that we will find it once we have opened our own practice. Our goals should not be how we strive for happiness and fulfilment – although they can certainly form a part of our efforts to change our lives and circumstances for the better.
A journey, not a destination
Setting and working towards a specific goal can make us very results or destination oriented. We can easily become closed off to creativity, fail to recognise new opportunities, and end up saying ‘no’ to paths that could lead us to a better destination than that which we had planned. Obsession with goals can also rob us of enjoying the moment we are in.
On days where you are able to make little or no progress towards your goal, you may feel frustrated or like a failure, and your sense of identity and mental wellbeing may be negatively affected. This should be a warning sign to you that your perspective or mindset may need to be adjusted, and your motivation reassessed.
Achieving your goals should be as much about the journey as the destination or achievement. It is on the journey that we get to know ourselves and our desires, our motivations and joys; most importantly, this is where we grow, learn and develop! Whether we work towards a specific goal or not, our focus should remain on improving ourselves on a day-to-day basis, on becoming better, more skilled, more educated, more effective and efficient, and more joyful. When we focus on the journey, not only will we get to our destination (which may be different from the one we intended), but we will also be better versions of ourselves when we do get there.
‘Give yourself entirely to your work, yes. But let go of the outcome. Be alike in success and defeat,’ writes Stephen Cope in The Great Work of Your Life.
Setting goals, or setting limitations?
When it comes to business (and people), focusing on a goal can make it difficult to see and respond to changes and needs in the market – changes that we can’t predict. This limits us in our ability to meet those needs, to be responsive and effective. We need to meet our patients and clients where they are, responding to the changes in their needs and their progress. The same can be said about social media and how we interact with our followers in that space.
From another perspective, when we define a goal, destination or achievement, we also limit ourselves to that achievement. When we instead focus on continual improvement and development, growth and learning while moving in the direction of our goal, we will find that we often far surpass our own expectations!
We do not know what the future holds, or what our future selves (and clients) will want, but if we continue to focus on the journey, we will find ourselves exactly where we need to and want to be.
What I want to achieve in 2022
In the coming year, I want to invite you to join me in living life with ikigai, to never stop learning, and to enjoy the journey! This is my adapted ‘goals list’ – I would love it if you shared yours too!
- To focus on completing one task at a time instead of multitasking.
- To start each day with the highest priority activity.
- To commit to taking care of myself throughout each day.
- To focus on the small things, performing the smallest tasks with excellence and attention to detail.
- To enjoy and appreciate the moments of beauty that occur every day.
Know why you are setting goals, and whether they are the right goals for you. Enjoy the journey, the little successes, and commit to continuing to grow, learn and improve on a daily basis. Take the opportunity to enjoy the little moments, the big moments, and everything in between, and be true to you!