We all hear a lot about how to set goals and how to achieve them. Information on this topic is everywhere. You may by now be a very good goal-setter, writing down long- and short-term goals that are measurable, and reviewing them everyday. I learned to set goals early on in life. I remember I had a number of goals set to be completed by the year 2000. These goals had to do with creating art, losing weight, and my biggest goal, getting my doctorate in psychology. Lo and behold, I surprised myself by actually meeting all of my goals! The goal of getting my doctorate seemed so big I didn’t really bother to have any goals after this. Although I did feel good about meeting my goal, I also lost my identity as a student and had to figure out what I would do next.
I did come up with new goals, but I had the unsettled feeling of what next? I would not say that it was exactly anti-climactic to meet this doctorate goal, as I did feel good about it and did have a very happy New Year’s 2000 celebration, but there was a feeling of confusion and not knowing what to do next. If I had been more focused on the process of learning and improving at helping people heal, I would not have experienced the confusion of meeting my big goal yet feeling a little lost.
There have been other goals that I would check off one-by-one, but not feel much elation or great satisfaction. For some there would be a short time of feeling good followed by just setting more goals. Other times I would barely think to even celebrate and just move on to my never-ending list of goals to meet.
Goals vs. Process
Setting and meeting goals does not appear to lead to great life satisfaction. As one works toward goals, you are actually in a “state of lack.” You don’t have the goal completed and every time that you look at your list, you are reminded of this. There is a better way to go about leading your life – it is called process. In therapy it is “all about the process.” We have process groups and the therapy process itself. Both of these processes are about mindfulness. The point is to be in the process of doing to becoming. It is the process itself that is most important, not the end goal. The process is the noticing the subtleties of the relationship in the now moment. The process is pointing them out, it is feeling, it is being. The process is what creates the healing, which would be the ultimate goal. The process is also about living in the “Now.” It is what sports team managers these days often refer when they tell their team to forget about results, about winning the game that day, but rather to follow the team-mandated process, and all will ultimately turn out successfully.
Creating the Process to Reach Your Goals
The best way to reach your goals is to create a process that will get you there. For example if you want to write a book, you can create a process where every morning you get up an hour earlier than you normally do and write for an hour. If your goal is to race in a triathlon, then the process you create is a plan to train for a set amount of time per day. If your goal is to improve your mood, you can create a process where you spend an hour in nature every day, eat a healthy diet and change your self-talk. Here is a link to my article on self-talk: http://www.amateinstituteboulder.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=139&action=edit
Setting Up Routines is a Great Way to Create Process
Setting up morning and evening routines, as well as a daily schedule, is a great way to create process. My article on creating a Golden Morning Routine is a good place to get some inspiration. Here is the link: http://www.amateinstituteboulder.com/creating-a-golden-morning-routine-for-optimal-mental-health/ When you have a routine, the process of reaching your goals becomes automated.
Important for Entrepreneurs
Having process in place is especially important when you work for yourself. There is no one telling you what to do. If you don’t set up a process to follow every day, it will be hard to accomplish anything. Setting up a process to meet your goals, through a schedule and a morning and evening routine will automatically create an environment where goals are reached. Over time you will accomplish your goals and develop new ones, but you will always have your routine in place.
Life Meaning Through Process
Setting up routines and a process that you follow every day not only helps you reach your goals, but also creates a sense of meaning and purpose. This is where the real advantage of the process versus goals occurs. You sit down every morning before anyone gets up and you write for an hour. You are a writer! Every day you get to experience the joy of creating and of living your identity. When you focus only on getting a book written, then you are in a continuous state of not receiving the reward of the goal being done. You only get to experience the positive feelings when the book is actually done. Focusing on the process gives you the satisfaction of living the life and having the identity of being a writer every day.
Focusing on the process is a richer, deeper way to live, because you only get to live in the now, and if the only time you feel good is that moment when your book gets published – or, in my case, when I received my doctorate – then one misses out on the day-to-day joy of living and writing and feeling that identity.