If you want to achieve your goals… don’t focus on them. This seemed like just the sort of counter intuitive advice I was looking for. You see, I have recently found myself floundering a little in my quest. (You remember the one? The quest to become an artist by doing 10 000 hours of art.) Actually that is not exactly true. I realise that I can’t help but want to draw and paint now - that is in my bones I think. But the recording of the hours and the sharing what I produce seemed to get squeezed out by other things in my life by the end of 2014.
That is the problem - our lives are full and busy. A good thing I think, but it means that there is so much competition for our time and attention that it is very easy for us to lose sight of some our objectives and perhaps not even notice when they get obliterated by some other competing demand. In my case, wanting to draw and paint does not automatically translate into action. Wanting to do something and actually finding the time and space to facilitate that in your life are two quite different things.
To achieve your goals, you need to be really mindful about the processes that you put in place for them. I know that there is plenty of woo woo advice out there suggesting you focus doggedly on your outcome, but actually I think that trusting the great mysterious unknown to fill in all the dots is expecting way too much. Yes, I do believe that the subconscious mind is capable of great things but realistically, it is going to need a helping hand, isn't it?
Ultimately we can't control the outcome. We can control the process. And this is exactly what Reggie Rivers was talking about when he said that if you want to achieve your goals don’t focus on them. Focus on what you can do to move towards the goal. Focus on the behaviour. He gave a great TED talk - only 10 minutes long - check it out here.
As the universe is wont to do, it kept sending me the same message that week. Not only did I see Reggie Rivers talk, I also read Jeff Goins post about measuring the process rather than the outcome, in order to achieve your goals. And that is exactly why I started blogging about all this in the first place. So as I approach the milestone of my first 1 000 hours I am happy to say that I have renewed enthusiasm for my project and renewed trust in the process.
Another of my favourite writers, James Clear, made some other good points about goals and processes. He says that focusing on the goal can be a demoralising thing to do because what you are really saying is that until you achieve that thing you aren't good enough now. Essentially it moves you into the future instead of being content right now, and happy to be in the process of improving.
Whether your goal is to master a new technique, write a book, be more patient or learn a new language the path to achieving the goal is the same. Of course you need a clear vision of the goal, but it is the behaviours and processes within your control that will get you there.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
(I thought you might like to know, no one is really sure who actually said these words first. Some say it was Antoine de Saint-Exupery, others say it is an anonymous proverb. Never mind. Clearly, it was someone very wise.)
By the way, how are you doing with your goals so far this year? I'd love to know... you could tell me in the comments below, couldn't you?