Don’t keep your eyes on the prize.
Yes, you should have a goal. And it should be significant enough to energize and motivate you. But if you rely on feeling energized and motivated by your goal, you’ll never get there.
And yes, you should know what direction you’re heading. But if you just focus on the outcome you want, you will fail to focus on what actually moves you closer to that outcome: the process.
Don’t have to take it from me; many others have said the same thing. For example, Russell Simmons said this in his book Do You!
“I know some people say ‘Keep your eyes on the prize,’ but I disagree. When your eyes are stuck on the prize, you’re going to keep stumbling and crashing into things. If you really want to get ahead, you’ve got to keep your eyes focused on the path.”
Have great patience.
For really big goals, progress is slow. Day-to-day, you don’t see the prize getting any closer. Keeping your eyes on the prize can be disheartening.
Look at your feet and look at what’s directly in front of them. What’s the next step? Take it. Take it immediately, regardless of how you feel. Then take another. And another.
Lao Tzu said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, which is true. But we need to remember that completing that thousand-mile journey takes about two million steps. Without patience, we will fail.
So focus on executing the process really well, and only glance up at your big, beautiful goal occasionally to make sure you’re still heading in the right direction. Do the work, and the results will take care of themselves. It’s something of a paradox that, in order to reach a big goal, you must work urgently and have great patience.
Trust your system.
For the goal of growing my business, I’m focused on writing every day and consistently reaching out to potential customers. I don’t need to check my website metrics every day or constantly recalculate projected revenue. I trust the process.
For the goal of getting back into athletic shape, I’m focused on eating the right food and being consistent with my workouts. That’s my system. I don’t need to step onto the scale every day or constantly judge my physique in the mirror. I know my system is working.
Or consider the wisdom of James Clear, who advises that you “fall in love with systems”2 because a consistent program of taking action is guaranteed to move you in the right direction, while having a goal is not.
“Having a system is what matters.”2
Goals, on their own, don’t get you anywhere. Habitual action does.
So don’t keep your eyes on the prize.
Keep your eyes on the process.
1 Simmons, Russell. Do You!: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success. Gotham, 2007.
2 Clear, James. “Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead.” http://jamesclear.com/goals-systems