Your habits will take you farther than your goals.

Goals are awesome. They smell delicious, they’re covered in glitter and they sparkle when the light hits them just so. Queue the theme music. They’re easy to set, easy to write down and best of all, they make it look like you’re really doing something significant with your life. Or maybe I should say, worst of all. So, you focus on them rather than your habits.

The big problem with goals is they are not real. Sure, the idea is to one day make them real, but right now, they’re out there. Something to aspire to.
I’ve heard people say setting goals is scary. I think what they mean is achieving goals is scary.

Without the process (AKA, habits), the goal means nothing.

According to a recent Business Insider article, 80% of new years resolutions have failed by February. One month and they’re gone! Is it because the goal wasn’t big enough? Not likely.

Like it or not, every new goal you set comes come tightly packed with a few bonuses: uncertainty, doubt, failure and fear. Like a “buy one, get five free” offer. And as soon as you crack open the box, they all come flying out in a flurry. But we don’t want them. We only want the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And yet, over and over we’re taught to focus solely on the goal. The goal is what matters most. Eyes on the prize.

What about the journey?

Have you ever tried hiking up a mountain while looking at the top the whole time?

Not long ago, my wife and I sat down with our children to help them set goals for the school year. We had challenged them to think of 1-3 goals they’d like to accomplish this school year. Interestingly, the answers ran the gamut. One kid wanted to set 5 or 6 goals and had to be restrained. She was disappointed when we talked to her about not spreading herself too thin.

Then one of our teenagers spoke up. He declared he didn’t have any goals at all; and he wasn’t setting one either. We probed and his answer made my heart sink a little!

“Why should I set a goal? I’m just going to fail.”

Like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Although it was something no parent wants to hear from their child, I have to admit I admired his courage and honesty. But then I wondered, “Has my subconscious mind thought the same thing?” It’s natural to enjoy life safely within the walls of your comfort zone. Hey, water’s warm.

You might even justify: life isn’t SO bad. Nobody’s bleeding. I mean, is it the end of the world if I didn’t achieve this goal? Why should I put myself out there and risk getting rejected when I can just stay right here and…oh look., another free course! I’ll just hit refresh one more time, there may be an important email I need to respond to that I didn’t know about five seconds ago.

Truth is, setting goals is easy.

It’s the PROCESS that causes so many of us to stumble, not our goals. Our daily habits. That’s what we need to focus our attention to. Because in the end, your process, your habits, your daily actions, are all that matter.

If you’ve been goal-focused, here are three quick steps you can do about it immediately:

  1. Write out and review your one main goal. Get it out of your system.
  2. Create a clear mental picture of what life looks like to achieve it and emotionally connect with that image.
  3. Now throw out your goal, come back to reality and get to work on what matters: your habits.

Break your goal down into small, bite-sized pieces. Focus on the process- what do you have to do every day? What actions, habits and routines do you need to be doing? Daily actions—even small—compounded over time turn into big results. Just ask Darren Hardy.

Expect the bumps. Fear, doubt, uncertainty, failure; they’re part of the journey. They show up the minute you start going places. A telltale sign you’re on the right track. And when they show up, you say to them, “Oh, THERE you are. I was wondering why it took you so long…”