Eyes Off the Prize: Rethinking Your Route to Success

W e’re all pretty familiar with the importance of goal-setting, both in our personal and professional lives. But what if all the focus on a final result is actually causing us to under-achieve?

A recent post by American author James Clear piqued our interest. In it, he suggests that goals can actually “reduce your current happiness”. Now, as you know, at PEPworldwide:nz we’re pretty big on goal-setting – so we thought this warranted a little further investigation. Does this contradict those PEP principles we know and love?

Not at all, says PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda. Clear’s point is that we should take a step back and focus on the process, rather than agonising over the end result. “Sometimes something is so big we don’t even make a start, and then it hangs over us,” she explains. “How many times have you got to the stage where you’ve created a goal – and then you haven’t managed to progress it any further? The key is simply to initiate a process.”

What we propose then is not so much a paradigm shift in our approach to goal-setting as a slight readjustment of perspective. Clear uses a sporting analogy as an example: if you were a basketball coach and focused only on what your team did at practice each day, rather than focusing on winning the championship, would you still get results? He believes that you would. And we agree. Sure, we’re all about setting goals (realistic ones, remember!) – but we also encourage our clients to both carefully plan and successfully execute each step they will take towards achieving them.

So let’s set these systems in place. We’ve included a few tips to get you started:

  • Clarity is, as always, essential.

  • We may be advocating a change in perspective, but you still need to identify your target. “We often have clear goals in our personal lives, but do you have clarity on what you’d like to accomplish at work?” asks Anda. “The first step is to identify exactly what you need to achieve.”

  • Just do it!

  • That familiar PEP principle still applies. “Take that first step, write the first sentence, just start the process,” says Anda. “Once you’ve started that process, it’s easy to build the momentum.”

  • Acknowledge your success at every step – not just the final one.

  • The most important part of shifting our focus from the milestone to the method, says Anda, is about celebrating our success along the way. “Once you’ve made a start, acknowledge what you’ve achieved already,” she explains. “Don’t wait until the end to celebrate, because that can be self-defeating. You’ll knock yourself down for not reaching your goal yet – when instead you should be celebrating the three or four really great steps you have taken towards achieving it. It’s about creating small wins along the way.”

So our challenge to you is this: identify a goal that you have yet to achieve – we’re pretty sure you’ll have one – and take the first step towards it. But this time, ease up on your expectations. Pay a little more attention to your journey, and a little less attention to your arrival. And let us know where this approach takes you. Whatever happens, we think you’ll enjoy the ride.