Prior to having cancer (twice), I was big on “New Year’s resolutions.” Every December (because I liked to get a head start) I’d map out my (often overly ambitious) goals for what I wanted to accomplish by the end of the new year.
After having my life derailed by illness not once, but twice, I had to change my perspective. I no longer felt guaranteed to have the time to achieve my goals, and it no longer felt reasonable to delay my happiness until some indeterminate time in the future that may never arrive.
I also realized after a painfully long absence from my work for chemotherapy that what I really loved was the process of being able to wake up each morning and take action on something that felt meaningful and important to me.
The goal became to have a “good day” instead of a “good year.” And ultimately, it is a series of good days, humbly planted one in front of the other, that creates a good life.
We set goals in all areas of our lives: how we want our relationship to look a year from now, what new hobbies we want to have mastered by this summer, or where we expect our career to be by the time we’re [insert age here].
And while it’s great to have ambition and focus, putting all of our metaphorical “eggs” in one basket is not a healthy way to set goals. It promotes our mind to think, “Once i reach this goal, THEN I will be happy” instead of “I will find happiness in each step of the process as I work to better myself while working towards [insert your goal here].”
We need to set goals that are nourishing and focused on the process of achieving our goals, rather than the goal itself.
This is a small shift that will have a monumental change to how you perceive your happiness and purpose.
Let’s say, for example, that your goal is to become a runner and to complete a 5K. And for context, you haven’t ran over a mile in a year.
Will you be showing up on race day with no preparation, ready to achieve your goal? No…there is a process! There is a system you will need to create to steadily improve your running each week. For example:
You wake up 20 minutes earlier than usual 3-4 days a week.
You put your tennis shoes instead of your slippers.
You walk outside instead of hitting snooze.
You jog for a half mile.
Here is where the shift happens. Did you create an improvement to your process today that has moved you in the right direction? Did you find some joy in the process? Will continuing this process eventually achieve your goal as a side effect? Yes.
Not only will this mindset shift help you achieve more joy in the process, it also encourages habits that will last beyond your goal.
I really love how my friend James Clear puts it in his article “Forget About Setting Goals,”
“Every Olympian wants to win a gold medal. Every candidate wants to get the job. And if successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers. The goal had always been there. It was only when they implemented a system of continuous small improvements that they achieved a different outcome.”
How will you find joy in your process this week?