Image credit: Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Not Achieving Your Goals? Try Focusing On This Instead

It’s that time of the year again, those days between Christmas and New Year’s where half the time is spent in a food coma, recovering from holiday celebrations and preparing for the celebrations to ring in January 1. It’s also the time where many people resolve to bring about major changes in their lives in the form of New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s finally hitting the gym, writing that novel you’ve always wanted to write, or making a certain amount of money, the new year is always chock full of hope, optimism, and motivation to improve.

Fast forward to the end of the year though, and how many of those goals were met? How many good habits that fell off the wagon before they could become ingrained into your daily routine? If you’ve ever failed to keep a New Year’s resolution, know that you are in the company of pretty much everyone, ever. I can’t even keep track of how many resolutions that I’ve failed to keep over the years, the amount of promises and “This time will be different!” that — surprise surprise — were not, in fact, different.

This year was no exception. I started off the year with several ideas of side projects that I wanted to turn into side hustles and ultimately see success in. I started off each one with a high level of motivation, and applied myself consistently and totally.

Any guesses as to what happened next?

If you guessed that they all just trailed off into nothing, you would be correct. And with that came feelings of anger, shame, disgust, and feeling like a failure for not having kept up with my resolutions.

So I found myself in the last few months of the year, and my thoughts turned towards what I wanted to see from my life in the new year. At this point, I’m self-aware enough to know that I can’t do the same thing and expect to see results. No matter how I tried to convince myself that this time would be different, it never was. Instead of just trying to convince myself it would be different then, what could I do to actually make things different?

The answer came in the form of a deadlift. I was at the gym one day, and decided to try and test where my one rep max lay. To my astonishment, I clocked in at 315lb. Only a few months before, when I started going to the gym regularly I could barely do 225lb. That’s a crazy gain in a short amount of time (and to be transparent I have been training on and off — mostly off — for about 9 years). And while never did deadlifts, I still benefitted from being ‘de-trained’, meaning I have some foundational strength, muscle, and experience, as opposed to starting from scratch.

The deadlift itself wasn’t the answer — what it made me realize was that I got results by not focusing on a specific goal, but instead by focusing on the process. I never had a goal to deadlift 315lb, I just wanted to get stronger, improve my health and physique. The results were a byproduct of having placed my attention on the process of going to the gym, lifting weights, and improving, and that was a very powerful realization.

One of the reasons why so many of my projects and ideas failed was because I was too focused on the goal (and also the wrong sources of motivation, but more on that another time) and when I didn’t immediately reach it, began to lose interest and eventually they all failed. When I began to focus on my health last year, first with losing weight and then with putting on size and strength, I was much more focused on the process, which made it easier to be consistent, apply myself, and not get frustrated when progress didn’t go as well as I was expecting. This ultimately resulted in me achieving the goals that I had set. Make no mistake, having a concrete goal is still very important for most things, as it’s how you measure whether or not you have achieved whatever it is you set out to achieve. What I’m saying is, set your goal, but then put the majority of your focus on the process of getting to that goal, while still keeping it in your periphery.

This is the mindset that I will carry with me into 2022. To not focus solely on the goals, but more on the process — enjoying it, refining it, and being present for it, not merely seeing it as a means to an end. I’ve felt my attitude and approach to things shift almost immediately as a result, and while it will of course require discipline and consistency, I wholeheartedly believe that it will pay dividends down the road.

I hope this has given you perhaps a different perspective of thinking about setting goals, and I’d love to hear your thoughts below, as well as what’s worked for you in the past.

Happy New Year!

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