A new year is upon us, a time when we set goals we say we want to achieve. Saying we want to achieve goals, and achieving them, are two very different things. We need to be able to commit to what we say we want to achieve. Let’s examine three areas that can help us understand how to achieve goals better: attention in the moment, the learning process, and commitment.
First, attention in the moment: End result goals will manifest themselves one day in the future, not today in the present. Focusing on end result goals shifts our attention into the future. Instead, we can identify processes we want to improve. Processes occur in the present. With process goals, our attention isn’t distracted into the future, to an end result we want to achieve; our attention is focused in the moment because that’s where the goal exists.
Second, the learning process: End result goals can give us vision to direct our actions, but beyond that, they distract our attention. Our desire to achieve them creates expectations of how we think we should progress. These expectations are based on our current knowledge and perspective. We’re looking into the future, thinking we know what we need to learn or how quickly we should learn. This creates frustration when our expectations aren’t met and shifts our focus away from what is occurring in the moment.
We need to learn something in order to accomplish goals. Each moment holds information that we need to pay attention to. By creating expectations, and getting frustrated, we shift our attention away from that information and slow or totally inhibit the learning process.
By setting process goals we identify processes that occur in the present moment. No expectations are created so we don’t get frustrated. We simply expect to apply the processes to the best of our ability. This approach allows us to stay receptive to information that is being revealed and gives us the opportunity to use that information to learn. We’re not looking into the future, thinking we know what we need to learn; we’re focused in the present, being receptive to what we’re learning.
Third, commitment: Commitment must immediately follow a decision. Delayed commitment is weak commitment. We can’t commit effectively to end result goals. We can only commit to decisions that allow us to take immediate action. Processes allow us to take immediate action. We can identify end result goals, but we can only commit to processes that move us in the direction of those goals.
We also tend to view end result goals as one big obstacle, which sets us up as victims of all-or-nothing thinking. This diminishes our commitment when we encounter difficulty. We commit to doing nothing because we don’t think we can accomplish it all. Having process goals doesn’t set us up for all-or-nothing thinking. Processes allow us to commit to many small obstacles. This sustains our commitment because each small obstacle is a small amount of difficulty, which is easier for us to work through and achieve.
We lose effectiveness in achieving goals because our attention is separated from actions we need to take in the moment. We need to shift our approach so our attention is focused on a process goal. Having our attention focused in the present, on the process of learning, helps us commit and act effectively on what we say we’ll do.
Practice Tip: Setting Process Goals
My process goal is: slow down and be curious. It isn’t enough to just set the process goal. You also need to identify physically and mentally how you’ll apply it. What will I do physically and mentally to demonstrate that I’m slowing down and being curious?
Physically, I slow down the speed that I walk and maintain a soft-eyes, or open, focus. Mentally, I set a process intention each morning: slow down and be curious. Then, I notice if I’m rushing or getting frustrated, the opposite of slowing down and being curious, and redirect my attention to my intention.
Identify one process goal for yourself. Then, identify what you will do with your body (physical) and with your mind (mental) each day that demonstrates that you’re focused on that process. Remember, to improve your commitment you must be able to focus your attention in the moment on the process goal itself.