Sometimes, just making the attempt is the goal!


I love goal-setting, in fact, I love it so much I wrote a book about it (Eyes on the Prize: A Kick-Ass Guide to Setting and Achieving G.R.E.A.T. Goals, Amazon). I love the process of setting clear, exciting, audacious goals, and then creating a step-by-step plan to reach those goals. There is something comforting about having a plan and a process to follow, a confidence in knowing that if you just consistently execute, you will reach the finish line.

But I am discovering that sometimes, the goal isn't to cross the finish lineā€¦ sometimes the goal is just to start training for the race.

In our society we are incredibly outcome oriented. We focus on the win, on being the best, on beating those around us. We praise those that are successful and come out on top. We envy those that accomplish things with ease and little effort. We grade based on achievement, promote based on achievement, and even vote based on achievement. We idolize winners. We make them CEOs, put them on cereal boxes, and buy their tennis shoes.

But are we doing ourselves and our society a disservice by being so hyper focused solely on success? Might we be better served to idolize effort, hard work, learning, and learning instead?

Here are a few of the results and consequences from focusing solely on the win:

  • When we focus solely on the finish line we often forget to enjoy the race. We spend the vast majority of our time in the journey to the goal, and only a few short moments actually accomplishing the goal. So, if we are miserable in the process, and only celebrate the end, we are robbing ourselves of joy and motivation along the way.
  • When we only praise and acknowledge accomplishment, we are subconsciously shaming those that attempt and fail. It is the failures in life where we have the greatest opportunity for learning, growth, and resilience. The majority of people we consider incredibly successful, are so only because they failed spectacularly along the way and learned from it. Yet, instead of encouraging effort, and celebrating failure, as a society we teach that attempt without success is something to be ashamed of and avoided. As a result, we have become a generation of people who if we don't think we can win, refuse to play the game.
  • We are creating a society of Fixed-Minded citizens. People who believe that their potential is finite, and that qualities like talent and intelligence are fixed traits. They believe that failure is a direct result of ability, so if they fail, they are a failure. As a result, they are constantly trying to prove themselves, hide deficiencies, focus only on tasks they can achieve rather than those that challenge, and if all that fails, they blame others for poor outcomes.

Here are a few tips to help you start to appreciate effort rather than outcome:

  • Try something new, and if you fail, try again.
  • Compliment people based on effort and attempt rather than outcome.
  • Praise improvement and resilience rather that the win.
  • Shift your goals from outcome based (wins) to improvement or process based.

I am not saying we should not try to win the race, be our best, or beat those around us. As a coach that would be blasphemy, plus competition can be fun, challenging, and productive. What I am saying is that when we focus primarily on the win, we create a society of people who are ill equipped when the game does not go their way. A society of people who give up when things get hard and blame others around them for their lack of success. We do not all deserve a ribbon just for showing up, but we deserve respect when we truly try and fail, and then pick ourselves up to try again.

The Benefits of Happiness


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Tuesday, 05 March 2024

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