Set goals but learn to love the process | Abingdon Senior School

New year, new me. Set goals but learn to love the process.
By Elliot Birkbeck, Teacher of Physical Education

The new year is a great chance to reset and think about future aspirations but in an increasingly fast paced world of instant gratification and a results based society, have we lost the ability to have trust in a process?

There is no doubt that in today’s society people are driven by results. In school life we see it with grades, sports results, and test scores. In life outside of school there are countless examples; lifestyle choices, diets, exercise routines, work targets and deadlines. If we don’t get the results we want we rightly question why not, and are quick to change things. But what if that is part of the problem? Are we guilty of chopping and changing our habits and processes because we don’t get instant results and does reaching our goals only cause greater dissatisfaction?

Goal setting is a brilliant tool and reaching a set target is a fantastic feeling. People have achieved amazing things by setting goals and working tirelessly to achieve them. So why do we often feel flat and empty afterwards? Olympians, astronauts, scientists, mountaineers and academics have all documented the ‘post race blues’ and the directionless feeling after achieving something that they have been striving towards.

So what can we do to alleviate this? The simple answer is to set another goal. But what if we can change our mind set and way of thinking towards achievement and outcomes.

‘The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. True long term thinking is goalless thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It’s about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement. Ultimately it’s your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.’
– James Clear, Atomic Habits.

In schools this type of thinking is often referred to as life long learning. Rather than focusing on regurgitating information for an exam or simply playing sport to win, ask yourself is your passion for a discipline deeper than collecting certificates or trophies, would you do it if no one was watching or taking score?

It is important to find happiness and fulfilment in the everyday processes of a goal rather than believing happiness will only occur once a goal, grade or outcome is reached. Try to focus on the passion for a discipline that is deeper than collecting certificates or trophies.

A commitment to a process could potentially last a lifetime, so as you set your goals for 2020 and go about achieving them don’t forget to revel in the process along the way.

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