Goals: Destination vs Process

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Destination goals are what people usually think of when they think of goals. It’s the big victory, the hard won prize.

For many it sets up the idea that you’re constantly reaching for something, with the odd blip when you actually get there. Only to find when you do achieve your goal, you celebrate and then realise you now have to start working toward the next objective. Sounds exhausting.

Happiness isn’t about, “I’ll be happy when…”. It’s about choosing to be happy now. Choose to be enough right now. This is why all the stuff about gratitude and these new-agey sounding ideas are really quite useful. Gratitude for example, moves you from a place of lacking and of being without, to being wealthy, to changing your focus to appreciate all you’ve got and moving from there. It’s not about not being hungry or ambitious. It’s like the emotional equivalent of an accountant taking stock of assets on a balance sheet. When you do a full inventory you’ve a better idea of what resources are available to you.

The Target

Where destination goals have their place is as an overall target. As a destination to aim at. But the key thing that many forget is to clarify your purpose behind your big goal. To understand why you want to get there. Like the first question in much of project management is, where will we be if we complete this project? How will things be better?

You have to justify why the project is worthwhile in the first place. This is important as most organisations and individuals have very limited resources of time and cash, and doing one thing is often at the expense of others. So it’s a good idea to know why that activity, that investment of time, energy and effort is intrinsically valuable.

So back to goals. Why do you want to achieve this goal, how will your life, or this area of your life be better?

(More on finding purpose in a later post, it’s a topic that deserves a few all on its own).

Trust in the Process

Process goals are far more useful. For some out there, if I call it ‘journey’ rather than ‘process’ it might have a different or a resonance with more depth. Whatever you wish to call them, they monitor progress, development or improvement but with a wider scope, like a wide angle lens. They see the big picture. I was at the gym last week lifting heavy things and for the first time in ages my numbers went down. I was annoyed, frustrated, even a little angry. ‘What the hell is going on?’

I asked around and was told, ‘sometimes it just happens. You might be tired, dehydrated, fighting a bug, lots of things’. I realised an unspoken rule of mine had been, ‘If the numbers are going up, even slightly, I’m doing well’. But by taking the wider perspective I noticed the process. I am in the gym, again. Points for that to start with. The important thing was I was there and putting in the effort, part of my general system or process of being healthier than I had been.

Destination goal thinking would see that as failure and might have even put me off going back for a while, in case I failed again. But process goal thinking saw it as a small blip in an otherwise positive and upward line of improvement. The focus moved from one small downer, to instead, awareness of the value of just being there, putting in the effort and moving through the process.

More Ways to Win

Put simply, process goals allow you to have far more ways to win. Instead of having a distant goal a long time from now or of a simple binary win / lose mentality, it opens up a sliding scale. So you can have 9 or 99 ways to win and only one to lose. This permits you to have little regular victories as you build along the way to your ultimate destination goals. It allows you the realistic perspective that there will be setbacks and blips, but gives you credit and smooths your ability to keep moving forward despite setbacks.

If you’re interested in more robust thinking, in not getting stuck but finding more ways to push through and win, check out the RISE Program.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. AMcDermott

    I love this: “more ways to win”.

    I’m big into destination goals but find they can be very short lived. It’s a bit like watching your sports team winning a major competition: after a hour or two of being on a high it’s back to reality. Even for the players it’s only a couple of days of celebration and then start preparation for the next competition.

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