As part of my self-exploration into who I want to be, how I want to be known and what I want to stand for, I had to ask myself a lot of deep probing questions. These were really uncomfortable and rocked the core pillars that I’ve built my life around, throwing me into a cyclone of uncertainty.

One of those questions was: “If I had a chance to start over, would I still work towards the same goals I’ve set and achieved so far?”

If I were truly honest with myself, the answer to that question most of the time was a big fat NO.

Upon this realisation, I noticed some consistent patterns with a) the goals I achieved and still kept with the habit thereafter vs. b) the goals I achieved and no longer kept with the habit.

The key difference between the two? Passion.

See, it’s easy to continue with a) even after I’ve achieved them, as they’re based on my interests that I truly enjoy. The process of uncovering and exploring my passion interested me more than the final destination.

On the other hand, b) are based on what other people think I should achieve with my gifts and talents, so it was always a means to an end. Every time I questioned myself if the outcome was really worth it, my answer was always no.

Writing it all out on paper is great, especially when many of us go through the motions of life day after day without really asking ourselves:

·       Am I doing this for me or for someone else?

·       Is this the life I really want to be living?

After I had this realisation, I was concerned that I’d fall back into the trap of pursuing things in b) only to find out again it wasn’t really worth it.

I touched on this slightly in my article (applying first principles to learning) where I trained for over 6 months to ride in under 8 hours for a 220km event called The 3 Peaks, and I did it in 7 hours 40 mins.

While for me the feat was amazing and I was proud of it, I’d have enjoyed it much more riding it in 10 hours and bantering with my mates than trying to ride the fastest time possible for the event. In retrospect, I discovered that all the training and time I sacrificed towards that goal really wasn’t worth the experience that I gained.

Thus I was glad when my friend Danielle and a few others recommended the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. There was one profound part that resonated with me and got me to question the mental models I had around goals, and I want to share it with you:

“The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game.”

James Clear

But this didn’t completely sink in until I came across the following quote (apologies as I don’t know who said it):

“The ideal life would be one where you had a hobby that as a by-product you achieved the outcome you want e.g. financial freedom, health, romance, etc…”

– Unknown

Thinking about my goals through these two quotes helped me to understand that achieving the goal alone will never really give you happiness. What will give you happiness is enjoying the process and the messy road that you’ll take towards achieving that goal.

As the great Bill Walsh once said:

“The Score Takes Care of Itself”.

Bill Walsh

Now I look at my goals through the lens of what hobby I truly enjoy that as a by-product will achieve the outcome I want.

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Has this article given you a new perspective on setting goals? Let us know what you think in the comments below!