There's something to learn from an Olympic athlete's work ethic, even when the games are over. Sure, they spend most waking hours training, but the part where they set epic goals and grind it out, day in and day out, even when it sucks, even if you never get there? That's what's important. Image by Steven Pisano.
While most of us aren't remotely in the same boat as an athlete training for the Olympic Games, the message applies to us too: Setting a goal is easy and feels good, but the real work begins with figuring out the steps to achieve it. Then we have to just do it without fixating on the goal itself. Otherwise, if something is going to take a while, we could lose motivation and our goal backfires:
For example, a goal of finishing an Ironman triathlon is motivating until you realise how hard it is to do and that you have no idea where to start. And even if you do figure out where to start, you quickly grasp how far you have to go -- both figuratively and literally. Any acute progress seems trivial. Ironically, focusing on such a goal can demoralize, demotivate, and, ultimately, detach you from the steps you need to take today to accomplish it.
But perhaps the biggest potential pitfall of concentrating too much on goals is this: It often ties your self-worth to things that you cannot control.
As Science of Us indicates, we need to focus on the things we do have control over and on nailing those every day. That way you keep your head tethered to the now and your motivation high. When you focus on the daily process instead, you're able to keep moving toward your goal without obsessing over it and being tempted to walk away because it's overwhelming.
Why Having Big Goals Can Backfire [Science of Us]