Are Goals Overrated?
“Goal” is a highly popular word these days. As are “mindset”, “strategy”, and “growth”.
All of these concepts are supposed to inspire us — to drive us forward in life.
I have been setting goals for as long as I can think.
As a child, I used to put coins in a jar and write something like “James Bond DVD June” on it. The savings had a clear goal and a clear timeline.
When the jar was filled with small coins, I had enough for the DVD — eliciting a sense of victory. Once I had the DVD, I moved on to the next jar.
And it was through journaling that I experienced a goal-related epiphany.
Why do we succeed or fail?
What if the success or failure of my endeavors was unrelated to the goals themselves? Might the journey be more important than the destination?
I started analyzing certain goals and how I achieved them.
I managed to save over 20k in one year. I also got into shape by following a military workout routine. Better still, I managed to learn the basics of photography in 6 months.
When it comes to reading, on the other hand, I failed to read 50 books last year, an original new year’s resolution. I also missed my writing and publishing targets.
These achievements and failures are diverse and do not correlate to any innate talents or outside misfortunes.
So why did I succeed in some instances while failing in others? The answer lies in habit building.
Failure is the result of a lack of continuity
My journal revealed that none of the successes came quickly or in one go. All of them were continuous processes.
The failures, however, were exactly the opposite. They manifested an absence of continuity.
I might have read 5 books in March but only 1 in April. My publishing schedule might have been great in July but awful in October.
In this sense, there was nothing wrong with the goals themselves but the execution of a consistent goal-furthering routine wasn’t on point.
Lots of authors and self-growth writers argue against goal setting.
According to Mark Manson, “people tend to bite off more than they can chew, so to speak, setting goals that are far above their ability or knowledge level and then becoming frustrated when they make little to no progress towards them.”
He goes on to argue that habits are long-term investments as opposed to the “one-time bargain” of a specific goal.
Consequently, if your routines are properly set up, the achievement of the goal becomes a side effect. All well and good, but what if you want more?
What if you want to build habits and set goals at the same time?
I would argue that goals and habits complement each other. Together, they form the basis for a mental and physical journey toward the desired outcome.
Habits are rarely built without goals and goals are almost never attained without habits.
Goals are mental, habits are practical
On the surface, habits may seem like the deciding factor. Become consistent in doing something useful, and success will be a byproduct.
This is only partly true. We need an underlying motivation to become consistent in anything.
It is virtually impossible to repeat a certain activity for long stretches of time without being driven by a mental impetus.
A clear goal serves as a philosophical incentive to our habit-building process. You don’t start going to the gym because you like sweaty rooms.
You work out regularly because your goal of becoming healthier, stronger, and better-looking has been ingrained into your conscience.
If your conscience is strong enough, you will never lack the mental drive to sustain your activity.
Goals matter but habits make the difference
The goal is the philosophical stimulus but in the real world, goals don’t matter. Only systems do.
The systems you put in place — consisting of habits and follow-ups — will ultimately be decisive.
Your goals can set your journey into motion but they will not ensure regular refueling along the way.
Most overnight successes take years.
The first Tesla cars were terrible. It took years and years before they became “acceptable” as everyday cars.
The same goes for light bulbs, computers, and pretty much every other invention.
Accordingly, you need to set your goals while at the same time identifying the system that will make you succeed in the long run. What daily habits are required to achieve a specific goal?
Both are necessary
At the end of the day, goals and habits are both necessary and inter-dependant.
To sum it all up, goals are not overrated but they are only a small piece of the puzzle. Always remember the following:
*Goals can be catalysts for habit building.
*Goals only work in conjunction with systems.
*Habits are more easily built with clear goals in mind.
*When setting your goals, define the required habits.