How Goals are Distracting Your Game

TAGS: responsibility, long-term, endgame, accomplishment, A Lion in Iron, improvement, john meadows, Alexander Cortes, goals, success, motivation'

I wrote last time about how achieving one’s goals can be hard...and that will always hold true. Going deeper, whether you reach those goals or not, well, that depends on your process towards them (or lack thereof).

As a youth who came of age in the 90s and early 2000s, it was impressed upon me that to be successful at anything in life, you must always have goals. The concept of goal setting was presented as an enormously important cornerstone of intangible “success,” and unsuccessful people were those who did not have goals. Hence, these were the people who accomplished nothing. So, if you had goals, then you would certainly be successful as long as you worked to make those goals happen. Although this is undoubtedly an overly simplistic view, it is one that most anyone would be familiar with.

Personally, however, I have never liked setting “goals." For whatever reason, I was (and have always) been thinking ahead in time and am looking forward to aging. As long as a process was in place—basic things like graduation, college, getting a job, getting bigger/stronger—I saw it as more of an inevitable happening than as a “goal” I was trying to reach. As I have gotten a little bit “older” (relatively speaking), I've seen enough people around me fail at the “goals” they originally set. Maybe they gave up, or maybe they weren’t “good” enough in some sense, but they never reached their particular end.

Their failures, however, were not for lack of want. Everyone and anyone can want something. They could have wanted it with all they were. Yet, where they come up short was an inability to learn the means. Their energy was so directed toward the endgame that the day-to-day process of getting there was something they could never work out. Once the full totality of the time, effort, or the requirements to change were revealed to them, they didn’t “want” the goal anymore.

Goal setting was overly simplified into “endgame” thinking. If you could just reach X, then you get Y. If you just put in the work, then you would reach your dreams. Reaching their goal was driven by motivation and hope, and while those things are lofty and sweet sounding, they are all too often backed up by nothing. Accomplishment in any venture is a day-to-day process that gets repeated over and over and over. The people who reach “goals" and are “successful” in the long-term are in that position because they reinvest in this process.

Process=Time

Recently, I was in Ohio for the Arnold Classic, and while there, I visited with teammates and had the chance to train with my new boss, John Meadows. For anyone who has seen John, they know he is densely muscled and brutally strong. His training sessions are infamous for testing pain tolerance and taking people to the edge. I was looking forward to this immensely. However, pain has always been something that, for better or worse, I will run into before I ever run away from it. And while my own strength and physique are decades away from John's, the prospect of training with someone who also has a high volume, masochistic streak was hugely appealing.

In my mind, this kind of training is a physical lesson in the value of process. John's Mountain Dog methodology is the culmination of thousands of training sessions over decades of lifting. And it's built some superb pro-level physiques. John is constantly studying to improve his system and to find new ways to improve his training and that of his clients. Training may take place in the short-term and be a physical onslaught, but it's part of a continuous long-term process. Events like competitions, meets, and performances, are all temporal points in time. They are things that culminate with meaning because of everything that came before them. They are important because of what we decide to do next.

A typical meet preparation can be anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks in length. A bodybuilding prep can be a literal year in advance. My friend Jennifer Petrosino is currently getting her master's, and she wants to eventually get her PhD. I, in turn, want to be a physician. So we are both looking at a solid six to eight years of schooling. These things take time, and I can tell you that constantly thinking ahead to how long it will take is anything but encouraging. Thus, the value of these things is found in the day-to-day process and is reflective of the value of time. For myself, I know this love of the process will carry me farther than my obsession with any type of end goal. If, at the age of 34 or 35, I am finally a doctor, then I will not be quitting work and retiring early. All that time spent will be to expand my capabilities as a man. Now I can just do more than I was doing prior, not less.

How do you find value in a process then? I speak only to myself, but I believe this to be three things:

  1. Did I learn/do something spiritually/intellectually/physically that makes me a better man than I was yesterday?
  2. Did my actions today build towards what I will do tomorrow?
  3. Did I enjoy/love this?

Simple, no doubt, but simplicity equals effectiveness as I often say. Improve in some aspect every day. Let that take you to tomorrow and find some love in this. Repeated across weeks and months and years, and you might be able to do something fairly significant.

Accomplishment in any venture is a day-to-day process that gets repeated over and over and over. The people who reach “goals" and are “successful” in the long-term are in that position because they reinvest in this process.

This is neither glamorous, insightful, nor ground breaking in any fashion. Being told to improve, work hard, and repeat…I know it's not something that people readily want to hear. But there are no shortcuts in any of this. When I started learning about “fitness” I was 15 years old, and I was one of those kids who would buy every magazine and read it cover to cover. When I started training people five years later, I found every resource I could and read everything possible. If I was at a loss for understanding, I'd investigate and teach it to myself. I trained sessions and put myself in front of people every single day, and if I felt I was lacking, I'd find a resource of some kind to improve. I told myself I was never going to be outworked by anyone, and I had faith that if I did this long enough, it would turn into something. My process was the one outlined above, and while I could expand on every point with a thousand questions, it comes back to those three primary principles.

When John asked me to work with him, I was absolutely floored. I said thank you for the opportunity over and over again, but this doesn’t make me a “success.” It is a huge opportunity, but what does it make me? In reality, all that’s changed day-to-day is that I have more responsibilities to more and more people. In turn, I need to keep improving across most conceivable aspects of my profession if I want to uphold these responsibilities. If anything, that is how I would measure “success.” It's not money or accolades or a single temporal moment. It's who and what you are responsible for each and every day of your life. The most successful people are living—not living off a single goal they reached. They are repeating a process refined over time—a process that has taken them to immense levels of responsibility, both to themselves and to others. That’s the foundation of having what you want. That’s what allows you to become more than what you are today. That’s what makes you strong(er).

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