The Problem With Goals

Goal are important. Goals are about the results you want to achieve, the final outcome. They give you direction: 

I want to lose 30 pounds

I want to do a pull-up

I want to live a long and healthy life

We meet with people every day to hear about what they are hoping to achieve in their time at our gym. Don’t get us wrong, goals are critical in giving you somewhere to go. However, a goal alone sn’t enough. 

In fact, your results have LITTLE to do with the goals you set and everything to do with the systems you follow to reach them. 

Without a system for taking action on a goal, all you have is something you hope will someday come to fruition. You are leaving a lot to chance. 

This is where we come in. 

At Telos, when someone comes in to our gym with a goal, we take that goal and write a prescription for them for HOW they will achieve it. We create an individualized system for them with step-by-step actions to get them where they want to be. 

  • If someone comes in with a goal to lose weight, their system might include working one-on-one with our nutrition coach, education on how to pick the foods they eat, teaching them how to plan around their schedules and meal prep, and identifying small tweaks they can make to their current lifestyle to sustain a long-term healthy relationship with food. 

  • If someone has a goal to do a pull-up, their system would involve a coach-led personal training program for strengthening the muscles needed to do a pull-up, daily practice of modified versions of the pull-up, and making changes in their body composition. 

Goals are necessary for giving you direction. But without a proven system for follow through and making small steps over time in the right direction to achieve that goal, you won’t be able to make progress.  

If you want better results, forget about the goal and focus on the daily action you will take to get where you want to be. 

Focus on the process. Trust your systems. 

Goals are critical in giving you somewhere to go – a destination for where you want to be. However, alone a goal isn’t enough. 

When you spend your time focused on the end result (your goal), and NOT the processes you will put into to place to reach them, multiple issues arise:

Winners and Losers Both Want to Win

Everyone who competes has the same goal when they train: to win. 

Did the people who came out on top have a better goal? Absolutely not. The rest of the people who fell short were still aiming for the same thing. 

The goal alone can’t be the differentiating factor. The goal is ALWAYS there. It is the systems that are put into place consistently and effectively that over time make a difference in the outcome. 

Reaching a Goal is Only a Moment in Time

Anyone who has ever done a crash diet knows the feeling: You have a special event coming up in one month and spend the 30 days leading up to it eating very restricted diet. You lose 10 pounds, look great, and then immediately afterwards gain those 10 pounds right back (if you’re lucky – many people who crash diet end up actually putting on more weight after the fact).

The issue here is that you are left chasing the same result because you never adjusted the systems behind the way you eat. A better approach is to gradually make small improvements in the right direction over a much long period of time. The goal won’t be reached in record time, but you will be left with a sustainable system and a new identity as “someone who eats nutrient dense foods for their health and well-being” instead of “someone who crash diets and then regains all the weight back.”

We tend to think we need to change our results, but the real problem is we need to update our systems. Fix the inputs and the outputs will naturally adjust along the way. 

Focusing on a Goal Can Put Off Your Happiness

If you’ve fallen for the trap before of: “I’ll be happy when…

  • “I lose 10 pounds”

  • “I can afford that new, bigger house”

  • “I get that promotion”

  • “My business is successful”

  • “I retire”

Then congrats, you are just like the rest of us! The problem with this way of thinking is that it puts off your happiness for down the road. You close off the opportunity to be happy in the now because you are only focused on later

You are happy if you are successful, and a failure if you fall short. It’s not either/or. It’s a continuum and the way to avoid these feelings is to enjoy the process as you work towards your goals. 

Change your way of thinking from “I’ll be successful when” to “I’m being successful when…”

  • “I eat nutrient dense foods that are good for my body”

  • “I spend less money that I bring home”

  • “I show up and work hard each day at my job”

  • “I enjoy the time I get to spend with my family, even on the days I go to work”

This way, you are present in the process of achieving your goals. You still have the direction you want to be going, but you are happy along the way when you are living by your own criteria for success. 

Choose Long-Term Progress Over Short-Term Success

The purpose of setting goals is to “win the game”. The purpose of creating sound systems to help you reach those goals is to continue playing the game indefinitely. Create a plan to help you continuously improve over time. 

If you have ever done a 30 day restrictive diet and then the day after celebrated your results with a 3,000 calorie binge at your favorite restaurant, or trained hard for an event for months in advance only to stop immediately once you competed, this is an issue with a goal-oriented mindset. The big motivation is no longer there and there is no reason for you to continue to work hard to improve. 

If you are playing the long game (and we all should), we aren’t thinking in terms of the next big goal. We are thinking about creating endless progress and refinement of our skills. Over time, falling in love with the process is the only thing that can almost guarantee progress. 

If you are having trouble reaching your goals or creating new habits, the problem likely isn’t that you “set your sights too high.” It’s time to take a good look at the processes you have put into place to achieve them. 

If you are stuck in a cycle of repeating bad habits — where you start and stop over and over again when you set goals for yourself — it’s not because you don’t want to make the change. It’s because your environment isn’t designed to make the change a success. 

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems”

  • James Clear

Do you have a goal and need some help setting up the systems to be successful longterm? Come meet with us at Telos. We can help.