Forget Goals – Do this Instead

Hard work makes us feel good. Research said that teens reported being happiest when they were in the “flow.” The flow is achieved when someone is so focused on a task and he/she is moving continuously and smoothly. Happiness wasn’t hanging out with friends or watching TV. Happiness is when you are in the flow. Forget about goals.

Success is likely when we are in the flow and not setting a goal for an end product. This all comes down to the difference between a goal and the flow. The flow is a system.

Happiness is a fleeting emotion. I feel happy when I cook a fabulous dish. That happiness lasts about 30 seconds. The truth is that happiness is self-fulfillment.

Self-fulfillment is growth and progress. A system is better than a goal in achieving growth and progress.   In fact, a goal can actually create discouragement and even make you quit.

What is the difference between a goal and a system?

  • Artist, the goal is to sell 5 paintings and the system is to paint 5 days a week.
  • Coach, the goal is to win a national title and the system is the practice schedule.
  • Actor, the goal is to get a commercial and the system is the number of auditions you will attend.

The question remains. If we are focused on a system can we still reach our goal? I say you can definitely achieve progress. I say growth and progress is the best we can achieve. A commitment to a system will provide us with growth and progress.

A specific goal that we don’t achieve can lead to disappointment, which may make us quit all together. Reaching a goal can also make us quit. I want to train for a marathon. I run the marathon and then quit running.

A system and not a goal will make us feel more productive and lead to self-fulfillment. We don’t know the end product. Does the end product really matter?

I’ll be happy when I can bench press 150 pounds in 3 months. My happiness is dependent on that goal. If I don’t achieve it, I am angry because I failed. Don’t let your happiness depend on a goal.

For example, I am working on a new start-up. I work on it for at least one hour a day. So far, I have attracted 3 major universities, Yale University, Notre Dame University, and ASU to help me launch the new business. I have 2 publishers on my advisory team and my app is now in the first stage of development.

All of this is quite a surprise. Can you imagine if I had set a goal that I have to get all of this in 3 months? I would have been so incredibly anxious as the time clock ticked down and I hadn’t achieved what I set out to achieve.

Goals can reduce your overall satisfaction in life. If we base our happiness on achieving a goal, we may be left swimming in a pool of disappointment.

Solution: Systems create happiness, which is nothing more than self-fulfillment

Goals can create anxiety and stress. A system can achieve growth and progress. Commit yourself to a system. A system may leave you surprised at the things you have accomplished. A surprise is much better than disappointment. There are endless possibilities when you commit to a system.  A well-designed system will always be a winner.

Thanks to Mihaly Dsikszentmihalyi for his book, which was an inspiration for this piece.

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pamela chambers