One of the most believed claims to success in health is to have clear and definable goals. It is said that you will be more motivated and inspired by the bigger, the SMARTer, the scarier goals. “If it doesn’t challenge you then it doesn’t change you” right?
I personally do not believe that to be true. However, my upbringing taught me otherwise. Through my own experiences through the majority of my life, I approached my health through big goal setting. Each new habit that I introduced in to my life was linked to a goal that I wanted to achieve. They were specific and actionable goals that I believed, inspired me to success.
At the time, I believed the goals were what led me to play professional soccer and represent our country both in soccer and triathlon. I believed they were the source of my motivation, at least that’s what I told myself.
Truth was, that I was wrong. The goals focus eventually churned my brain in to a state of being unhealthy mentally.
Years later and through help from both sports physiologists and personal physiology, I have challenged the principle. I asked myself, would the goal still have been achieved had I not set it. Would I have been just as successful if I just focused on doing my best system / process day in and day out. Would my clients have still lost their weight if they didn't have the big goal? Would my trainers still have achieved great career, if they didn't have the big goals around it? Would we still have won?
I believe the answer is not only yes, I believe I would have performed both in sport and life even better. Affirming the belief that my clients and trainers would have seen better results too.
In fact upon reflection, most goals that I set out to achieve were not achieved, I failed a lot of the time. I won some and I lost most. Through years of failing, I eventually learned that the magic all happens when you focus on your system.
“The goal in any sport is to finish with the best score, but it would be ridiculous to spend the whole game staring at the scoreboard.” James Clear
- Issue #1 – Once you achieve the goal you are left feeling empty and thinking ‘what’s next’?
- Issue #2 – Feeling of not being enough, or completely fulfilled until the goal is achieved.
- Issue #3 – You overlook great work and learnings from the people around you that didn’t win. All Olympians strive for a gold medal, however only one can win. The issue is we devalue the non podium finishers. It stops the thinking about the long game. This can restrict a progression mindset.
- Issue #4 – Every goal has an end point, your self-fulfilling prophecy is that once I achieve this ‘thing’ I will then be worthy of feeling good. Chances are you will, however it will be a fleeting feeling.
- Issue #5 – If you believe the end justifies the means, this can lead to not understanding your own needs and values. You will put the goal above yourself.
So, what’s the point of having goals? Well, I do believe they can assist in the creation of the plan. In fact I would say they are very useful in the planning area. However, once your plan in made, the only useful area to focus on is assessing, measuring and improving your system, otherwise known and your daily actions/habits.
The true way to long term behaviour changes that goes the distance, is to focus on your process.