When you're in the goal-setting mode, the main thing that's typically thought about is the outcome. That's understandable because when you're setting goals, you want to achieve something that you haven't accomplished yet. You think about where you are now and the things you need to do to move to the place you want to be, making it the focal point of your objectives.
Keeping the outcome of what you're aiming towards is necessary to make sure you're on track. But one thing that generally occurs when there's so much focus on the outcome is a trap waiting to happen: you mistakenly believe that you absolutely need to achieve the end result for the whole journey to be a success.
This mindset creeps in slowly and settles into your brain without you even noticing it. Before you know it, you begin to feel that you're incompetent or a non-achiever when you haven't hit your target exactly as you envisioned. It can be an endless source of frustration because it will make you feel like a failure. People make the colossal mistake of thinking that partial success is a complete failure.
Perfectionism is a silent assassin
This kind of mentality is perfectionism coming into play. Since you haven't gotten exactly the thing you wanted, it will begin to feel like you have failed. Even if you never explicitly thought or said that it's all or nothing when it comes to achieving your goals, perfectionism will subconsciously handle that.
Perfectionism can be deadly to your growth because it can attack all aspects of your progress, from beginning to end. It can paralyze you from starting your journey because you might feel that if you can't do everything you shouldn't even bother to start. It can blind you from all the good you're doing because it stops you from seeing your accomplishments. It can also cause your progress to stall, go back, or regress further than you were, to begin with. And this may happen without you even realizing it.
Have you ever thought about beginning something that's new for you - for example, writing a new book, or creating a new website, or starting your business - and you didn't get very far? That's most likely perfectionism stopping you. Since it's all new, perfectionism makes you think you need to know everything before proceeding.
Have you tried losing a certain amount of weight and got halfway to your goal, only to get frustrated and quit your diet and exercise routine because you haven't gotten to your target weight after months? Again, that's probably perfectionism rearing its ugly head. You had a specific number of pounds/kilograms to get to, and since you're not there, perfectionism will make you think you never will be.
Small wins are the way to the massive victory at the end
The best way to conquer this mindset is to reframe your thoughts and to change your perspective on what a win is. You can achieve greater results by focusing on the small victories you get along the way, as opposed to focusing on the end result and how far you have to go to get where you want.
Let's take the examples above as practice for rethinking what achievement is. When you're beginning a new endeavor, take note of all the things you're learning and understanding. If you're writing a novel, look at the number of words or pages you've been able to write and don't pay much attention to how much more you need to write. When you start a new business, don't think about what you don't know - focus on learning new things, and celebrate the times you figure something out that moves your business forward.
For weight loss, it's just as simple: focus on how much weight you've already lost instead of thinking about the amount you haven't. Your motivation will receive a boost when seeing that you're moving towards your goal, even if it's a relatively small amount of movement. In turn, your brain will know that you're making progress and will make it easier for you to continue down the path you're going.
It's easy to lose sight of what you've earned when you spend too much time focusing too far in advance. Sometimes you don't realize or appreciate all the significant progress made, and is one of the leading causes - if not the primary reason - of frustration and giving up for those attempting to accomplish something big.
Let your goal guide you, but not consume you
In the end, it doesn't really matter if you hit your target precisely as you wanted, at the time that you wanted. Success is rarely a straight line from Point A to Point B. You must expect twists and turns along the way to your dreams. As long as you don't wildly stray from your path and are moving in some way towards the end instead of the opposite direction, you're doing it and should keep at it.
When you're not exactly where you thought you'd be, don't get upset or worried. Take all the things you learned along the way as these will be more valuable than anything else, including reaching your goals. The experience gained will help guide you in times of uncertainty, and will make you realize how much further you are in your journey. Don't discard these teachings just because it hasn't been going as perfectly as you envisioned.
In most cases, you'll always have time to correct your course or improve what you're attempting to do. Even if it's not in the timeframe you would prefer, progress is still progress. No one will mind if you took an extra six months or two years to get what you said you would. If you accomplish it, the time it took to get that won't matter.
We all need to have goals to help up grow and become better versions of ourselves. However, let your goals serve mostly as a guide to keep you going, as long as you don't make it be the only thing keeping you going. With clarity on where you're going and the knowledge of how far you've come, you'll get to where you want to be.
Small steps for your Practical Good
Let's begin to change your perspective on your goals by taking a few small steps to transform your mindset:
- Take one goal you're working on and write down everything you've accomplished since you began. The purpose of writing down the things you've done is for you to realize how much you have done. Chances are, you probably don't truly realize how much work you've already put in and how much you've learned since you began. Once you see this, you'll want to continue to build upon your work.
- Every day, take note of what you've accomplished that moved you towards your goal, no matter how small. People often discard accomplishments that seem tiny or insignificant. It's a mistake because it's still an accomplishment and they add up fairly quickly. Take a few minutes each day to take note of things that moved you closer to your goals (either on paper or your electronic device). This exercise will get your brain accustomed to seeing the small wins that will keep you moving forward. Additionally, these notes can be useful in the future for a quick motivational boost when needed.