Life is about PROCESS, not GOALS

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CONFESSION: I've spent my life chasing goals.

But turns out that - unlike goals - life doesn't have a finish line.

(Unless of course you count death, and that's not a finish-line you necessarily want to barrel towards at full-throttle.)

So before you set a goal, or after you've failed to achieve one (Here's lookin' at you, New Year's resolutions...) ask yourself this:

Is it actually the goal I want, or do I want to become the person who effortlessly maintains the results of that goal?

Because you can't sustain the results of the goal unless you become a person who does the thing that got you the results - FOREVER.

I'm sorry. I know this little truth-nugget is one that might be so hard to swallow that you choke a little.

You have to become the person who consistently makes the choices that sustain the results you want.

How to do that?


Your current habits got you to where you are now. If you change your habits temporarily, then you'll get temporary results.

Let's use weight loss as an example.

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If you use a temporary fix (e.g. a 30-day "cleanse") then you'll get temporary results. You'll be thinner, for a while.

When you go back to your old habits (the ones that made you decide you needed that cleanse in the first place), you'll get the same results. And then you might do another 30-day / 60-day / temporary thing.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

If you want to reach your goals, you have to change your habits.

If you want to change your habits, you have to focus on process: what's the process you used to create the undesirable results, and what's the process you need to implement in order to get better results?

Break that down into steps, then implement one-step at a time.

Over the long term, an imperfect but consistent process will give you better results than short term perfect adherence.

Personal example: my gym routine changes regularly because I go through phases. Certain times of the year I have more energy than others. I think that's normal especially if, like me, you live somewhere with four seasons. (Read: summer vs. chubby hibernation mode a.k.a. winter.)

The most consistent part of my gym routine is that I almost always spin twice a week. But sometimes I go through a period of a few weeks where my body just isn't up for it, so I'll do yoga instead.

Sometimes I weight train two or three times a week, sometimes I don't.

Some weeks I'll go for really long walks every day, and nothing else.

My commitment to moving my body in some way everyday is non-negotiable, but the intensity of the activity is 100% negotiable.

That's what a commitment to process looks like. (Instead of a punishing adherence to goals.)

NOT: I will run twice a week, weight train twice a week, do yoga twice a week, and then take one day to rest.

INSTEAD: I will move my body in some manner daily.

The least amount of movement I do on an off-day is what I call the "Fresh 15" - a 15-minute walk around the block, just to get some air and stretch my legs.

If I did at least that, then I won the day because I stuck to my process.

If you're simply trying to stay fit and healthy, then what I've just described is enough. A punishing adherence to goals (a.k.a. - "beast mode") is for people who are trying to train like professional athletes.

Unless you're training for the Olympics, you don't need to turn your process into a punishment.

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So here's the FORMULA:

Process = Non-Negotiable. I will move my body in some way, every day.

Level of Engagement = 100% Negotiable. Movement can be as small as a 15-minute walk, or as big as a 60 minute spin session. (Or whatever scale your current level of fitness dictates.)

Life doesn't have a finish line, so if you want to get certain results, you have to have certain habits in place that will sustain those results for the rest of your life.

A commitment to process is the only sustainable way to do that.

Flexibility always wins over rigidity, in the long run.

When evaluating your progress in building habits, you need something consistent to grade yourself against.

Use your adherence to process, not your actual results.

So if you’re trying to lose weight, evaluate yourself based on how well you stick to your plan rather than the number on the scale, especially in the short term.

Focusing on results, especially short term results, is an excellent way to add stress to your life. That could lead to you quitting the habit associated with that stress, thus ensuring no long term results are ever achieved.

Track your adherence to process, not your results.

Consistency before intensity.

Start small and become the kind of person who shows up every day. Build a new identity.

Then increase the intensity.

The main aim of setting a goal is to win the game, whereas the main aim of building a system is to keep playing the game.

Life isn’t about making single accomplishments, it’s about continuous improvement and ultimately, it’s your dedication to the process that will determine the extent of your progress.

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  1. I agree, setting realistic and appropriate intentions then forming a process where you'll aim for continuous improvement, whether very small and incremental, is the way to go.
    It's too easy to feel disappointment and derail yourself with negative criticisms when you over-commit to the ideal image in your head that is ultimately unrealistic and unsustainable.
    My two cents.


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