At the turn of the year, many people create New Year’s resolutions. And even if you’re not one of them, you’ve likely given some thought as to how you want this year to go differently from last. We all desire improvement in our lives, it’s how we’re wired as humans So then why do so few resolutions and goals actually stick?
The reason we don’t reach our goals isn’t that we don’t pick the right ones, or we don’t write them down or even that we don’t create the best plans. No, the reason we don’t reach our goals is that we ask the wrong question. When we think of goal setting, the question that comes to mind is, “What do I want to achieve?” This question is based on outcomes that we want to see happen in our lives. “I want to lose 10 lbs. or I want to write a book” are examples of outcome-based, goal-driven responses. But goals are often in conflict with long-term results and happiness.
You might be thinking, “Wait a minute? Aren’t we encouraged to set goals and write them down if we want to see progress?” Yes, and we’ve been encouraged for as long as most of us can remember to set goals if we want to see improvement. But goals in and of themselves do nothing. Think about it. You might have a goal to lose weight but if you’re not drinking water, going to the gym, getting enough sleep and eating whole foods, your goal is useless. Goals cast the vision, but our actions determine our results. To achieve lasting results this year and every year, it is more effective to focus on the systems that drive our actions rather than the goals themselves.
A far more effective question to ask is, “Who do I need to become in order to get where I want to be?” Growth is often an overlooked part of the journey. In order to achieve goals, we need to grow. This is true in entrepreneurship and traditional employment. If you want to earn more, you must become more. Therefore, if we desire greater results for our lives, instead of focusing on the things we desire, we need to be looking at who we need to become. Who do we need to grow into to achieve the type of results we desire for our lives?
Not only is this a more effective way to approach our goals, but it’s also more fun. Too often we think that achieving our goals will be the answer to happiness and fulfillment. Whether we say it or not, we think, “I’ll be happy when…when I lose weight, when I get that promotion, when I start saving for retirement or when we buy the dream home.” We put off our happiness today for some future vision and then wonder why the days are long and filled with stress.
When we shift the question and focus on who we need to become, we can begin the work on ourselves. The goal is to create systems and habits in our lives that will ultimately lead to the outcomes we desire. Goal achievement is not one big gargantuan leap, its tiny steps taken repeatedly over time. The best part about focusing on who we need to become and the systems that will get us there is that you don’t need to start over every year or for every new goal. When the systems for growth are in place, any goal is possible because you’re already on the path to achievement. So instead of looking at what you want to achieve, let’s ask who do you need to become?