“I don’t set goals in life. In this country, people are all about goal setting. And, I concede, to a point, how it can help you get going. But, we limit ourselves with goals. We have far more ability than we give ourselves credit for.”
This topic is a little controversial, as it challenges a long-held belief that people have. I equate it to when we finally found out that the Earth revolved around the Sun, and not the other way around. At some point, the illusion had to be shattered.
I think goal setting is a poor approach to achievement. And yes, like anyone else, I was a goal setter for most of my adult life. In fact, in my early 20’s, these were my goals:
*Make 1 million dollars
*Buy a Mercedes S500
*Own a gigantic house
*Get a hot girlfriend
Then, as I reached my mid-20’s, they evolved and grew a bit more mature:
*Make 100,000 a year
*Buy a nice car other than the piece of shit I’m driving right now
*Own home in nice gated community
*Be with someone I love and care about
Finally, as I reached the end of my 20’s (I’m currently 29), they evolved one final time into what they are today:
“Wait a second…..goals are bullshit.”
I’m with Hugh Jackman on this topic. While goals can get a person going in the direction towards something they want, they’re ultimately a pitfall and a trap because of the results-oriented mentality they inevitably create. They inevitably create an attachment, and dependence, upon results in order to feel good, happy, and satisfied.
Goals are basically code word for, “I’m not happy with where I am right now, but if I achieve _______, my goal, then I will be happy.” With that train of thought, you’ve taken your ability to feel good, happy, and satisfied in the present moment and postponed it until sometime in the future.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be happy NOW, not later. I don’t have later. I have no idea if I’ll EVER have later. But, I do have right now. That’s where I want to be, and I want to be happy there.
Here’s more reasons why you should never set goals:
Setting a goal is the same as setting an ultimatum: “Achieve ______ or I won’t be satisfied.” As soon as you adopt that kind of thinking, you’re putting pressure on yourself immediately. It’s now get the outcome or bust. The potential for the bust creates pressure, as any challenge, obstacle, or trip up along the way will make it very easy for you to feel stressed, frustrated, and doubtful of whether or not you can go the distance.
Because you’re attached to an outcome, if you don’t end up getting it, then the opportunity for disappointment and pain is immense. Because you didn’t get this thing you felt you needed in order to feel good, happy, and satisfied, that means that your ability to feel all of those things won’t be there. They’ll be attached to the outcome you never got. It’s like reaching for a ball caught in a tree that you can’t quite reach. Attaching yourself to results means you attach your ability to feel good, happy, and satisfied to results as well, so when you don’t get the result, you don’t get those either.
Just like with your ability to feel good, your ability to feel confident and believe in yourself is now attached to the outcome as well. Your level of self-worth becomes a condition rather than a decision. It becomes based on whether or not you manage to achieve whatever goals you’ve set. So, if you don’t achieve them, or if it takes a long time, you’ll find yourself losing confidence and belief in yourself. As your goals fly away in the wind, so too will your confidence and self-value.
We’re powerless to control results and outcomes. We have absolutely no direct control over them. For example, have you ever tried to achieve something, worked extremely hard towards it, dedicated yourself to it, but inevitably found yourself falling short because of something completely outside of your own control? All you can do is influence results and outcomes based on the action you take every day. Putting all of your focus, desire, and energy into a goal you have no direct control over is always dangerous.
They’ve done research on how results-oriented thinking affects a person’s passion, desire, and motivation over time. Do you know what they found? They found that, when a person does something solely for the purpose of getting something in return, such as a goal, their passion, desire, and motivation to perform DECREASED over time. It decreased if they didn’t get the result enough. It also decreased if they got the result TOO MUCH. It’s called the “Overjustification Effect”. So, in reality, results are actually BAD for you! Why do people’s passion, motivation, and desire decrease over time, even if they get the result they want? Simple: The more you get of something, the less valuable it becomes. It doesn’t have the same allure it used to have when you were striving to get it. So, you lose interest in performing what’s required to get the result, and you walk away, give up, or move on.
So then what does all this mean?
Goals are a product of external thinking and living, which inevitably breeds a person whose happiness, self-worth, and motivation is dependent on external things in order to be sustained.
I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to only feel happy, and confident, and motivated only when I managed to get something outside of myself that I’ve deluded myself into thinking I need in order to be satisfied and feel valuable.
So, forget about goals. Forget about results. Forget about outcomes. Don’t ever set goals. Instead, do this:
Set Themes. A Theme is a kind of lifestyle and action commitment. It’s putting your priority and focus on the process itself, rather than the outcome.
Here’s an example of a typical Goal:
“I’m going to lose 10 pounds by August 31st of this month”.
Here’s an example of a THEME:
“Every day, I’m going to commit to a lifestyle of healthy living by eating well, exercising, sleeping enough, and having a positive attitude”
The difference between Goals and Themes is that, when you live by Themes, instead of focusing on and prioritizing the outcome, you focus on and prioritize the PROCESS. You detach yourself from the result, and you no longer become dependent on the outcome in order to feel happy. You allow yourself to simply love, enjoy, and be the best you can at the process itself. You see results and outcomes as a side-effect, a bonus, of doing something you love and enjoy.
When you switch from Goals to Themes, you eliminate all of the traps that comes from goal setting. You take them and you turn them into positives:
Pressure —-> Excitement
Since you no longer care about the outcome when you do something, and since all you care about is loving what you do and enjoying it, you immediately eliminate the pressure of feeling like you NEED to have the result and you convert it into excitement. Every day, you’re excited to get up and do the things you love. You don’t feel that sense of urgency, or nervousness, or stress that comes from NEEDING results. You simply love and enjoy doing and performing the process itself.
Disappointment —-> Satisfaction
When your number one priority is the process, and not the result, it allows you to be satisfied no matter what the result is. When you don’t need outcomes or goals in order to justify being happy, you can be happy any time you want. Your ability to feel good, happy, and satisfied will come from loving and enjoying doing the things required to get the outcome. So, even if you don’t get it, or it takes a while, you can still be happy right now. It doesn’t have to get postponed until the future.
Doubt —-> Certainty
Now, your ability to feel confident and believe in yourself, instead of being a condition based on what outcomes you manage to get, becomes a decision that you make, simply because you want to. Your confidence and certainty of yourself now comes from an internal source as opposed to an external one. If the results don’t go your way, you’ll still have the power to decide to believe in yourself regardless. It’s not attached to, or based on, the outcome any longer.
Powerlessness —-> Control
You can’t control your goals. You can’t control outcomes or result. You CAN control the process. You can control the actions you take and the things you do. You can control how well you perform. You can control your ability to love DOING instead of GETTING. You’ve now gone from putting all of your focus, energy, and desire into something you have no control over into something you have direct control of.
Reduction —-> Growth
When results don’t matter to you, and all you care about is loving and enjoying the process, your passion, motivation, and desire levels INCREASE over time instead of decreasing. Why? It’s human nature: As humans, we’re driven by challenges, not results. It’s why we’ve gone from living in caves to living in skyscrapers. It’s why we’ve gone from landing on the moon to landing on Mars. As humans, we need to feel like we’re being challenged and making progress in order to be happy, and when you’re focused on the process as opposed to the outcome, your passion, motivation, and desire will only increase over time as you discover how much you’re improving and how much of your potential you’re fulfilling.
Goals are an external approach to living and achievement.
Themes are an internal approach to living and achievement.
And, this works. Why does it work? Because it’s simple cause and effect:
The process is what gets the result. The action taken is what gets the result. The things you do, every day, are what get the results. The THEMES you adopt and live by, and love doing every day are what get the results.
Achieving an outcome is simply a side-effect, a consequence, of completing a process and taking action. So, if we know that completing a process and taking action will get the result we want anyways, then why set the goal in the first place? Why focus on the outcome? I know that, if I eat healthy, exercise, sleep well, and have a positive mind, I’ll lose weight and feel great. So then, why set an ultimatum for some arbitrary number on a scale that I’ve convinced myself will make me be happy? If I’m losing weight and feeling great, why does the number even matter?
Why can’t I just focus on loving, enjoy, and being the best I can at eating healthy, exercising, sleeping well, have a positive mind, and let that be what drives me and motivates me?
If we just focus on loving the process, the action, and the doing, the result will just take care of itself. So, we don’t need to focus on the result. We just need to let it come to us.
One of my idols is George Carlin. He’s considered to be one of the greatest comedians of all-time. He’s sold out Madison Square Garden, sold millions of albums and books, and toured the world for over 40 years as comedian. This was his take on goals:
“Do what you love, do it well, and if people pat you on the back for it, you’ve got it. The secret to happiness is finding something you love, doing it well, and then being recognized for it, even if it’s just one person who says ‘Hey, you’re doing a good job.’ I told my wife that, even if I only filled coffee shops 3 days a week for the rest of my life, I’d be happy. When you let go of goals, and the attachment to goals, that’s when things come TO you. You should have an aim point, but not some *thing* like that.”