“If you can believe in yourself and the potential that is in you, and then focus on growth instead of goals, there’s no telling how far you can grow. You just need to consistently put in the work as you keep believing in yourself.” –John Maxwell, 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth
From the time we are babies, we are focused on goals and milestones. As babies, our parents are focused on the milestones. When will she talk? When will she walk? When will she identify specific objects? As we get older we place these goals on ourselves. When will I be old enough to walk home from school alone? When will I be old enough to drive? When will I be able to start earning money?
Goals are fantastic metrics, but they are not the whole picture. When you focus on the goal, you are constantly working toward an endpoint, which can leave you feeling excited as soon as you reach it and then almost instantly disappointed that you are no longer working toward that goal.
Let’s consider a couple of examples.
Example 1: Financial Goal
Charlotte is super excited to go on a week-long, Caribbean cruise. She has been dreaming of this day for what seems like forever. One year ago, she and her husband made a commitment to save money every week so they could afford the long-awaited vacation. For 12 long months, Charlotte and her husband saved their money. They opted out of certain extravagances like dinners out and weekend getaways so they could save enough funds for the big cruise. When the time arrived to take the vacation, Charlotte and her husband couldn’t be more thrilled. They had an amazing time during their week in the Caribbean and created lifelong memories. However, when they came home, Charlotte experienced the post-vacation blues. Not only was she feeling sad that her big trip was over, but she no longer felt like she had something to work for. Her life felt empty and unfulfilling.
Example 2: Weight loss Goal
Harriet has struggled with her weight her whole life. She has done every diet under the sun and never feels successful. Her 20-year high school reunion is coming up in 6 months and she is determined to lose 20 pounds so she can wow her high school classmates. For 6 months, she exercises 5-6 times/week and eats a super clean diet. She is thrilled when she walks into her reunion, 20 pounds lighter and feeling hot and sexy. The next day, Harriet thinks to herself, “Well now that’s over I can stop dieting and exercising like crazy.” Even though she was proud of her new physique, she stops exercising as regularly and stops paying attention to what she is eating. 6 months later, she has gained back her 20 pounds.
In both of these examples, Charlotte and Harriet have a big goal to accomplish and once they achieve the goal, they are left feeling a bit empty and deflated. However, if these ladies had focused on the journey and the growth along the way, once they had reached the goal, they wouldn’t feel the need to stop.
Charlotte made a great effort to save money over one year. If she focused on the journey, she would realize that her financial sacrifices weren’t that extreme and in fact, they are actually sustainable. By noticing her growth process around her financial security and spending habits, Charlotte could continue to save money regularly which would result in more extravagant vacations on a regular basis.
In Harriet’s case, by changing her mindset from a goal-oriented one to a growth mindset, she would realize how great she feels emotionally and physically from eating well and exercising regularly. Harriet’s growth mindset would allow her to continue her health journey and maintain a healthy weight, but more importantly, a healthy mindset. She would consider the 20 pound loss a great accomplishment, but merely one marker along her growth journey for living a healthy lifestyle.
Goals are extremely important. They help guide our focus and give us something to reach for. We are not suggesting that you should stop setting goals and focusing on your dreams. Rather, take your mindset to the next level and really focus on your journey and focus on the process. Consider your life as an upward slope. You are continuously growing, learning, changing. There will be wins and losses along the way. By tuning into your growth, versus constantly waiting to reach the goal, you will feel more successful in your everyday life and you will likely reach even bigger goals and bigger dreams along the way!