The importance of setting goals and falling short

Rider on a bike making a jump

When we talk about setting goals we tend to think about new year's eve, promises of weight loss and failed gym memberships. But goals are something that are with us all year round. So how do we make them work for us? Do we need them and are they even relevant? I think they are, and here's why.

Goals are not absolutes

Many people don't set goals at all, and it's easy to understand why. If you fail to reach a goal, you fail. Nobody likes to fail, you feel disappointed and therefore less inclined to set further goals for yourself. But I think this is where many of us misunderstand their value. A goal is a measuring stick to show us just how far we've come, not what we've failed to achieve.

Absolute goals guarantee absolute failure

To push forward we need to be inspired to do so (at least I do). If we have no clear idea of where we're actually heading then things lose focus and it's all to easy to drift along.

When you ask most folks what their goals are, they say things like:

"To be happy"
"To make a million"
"To own a sports car"

These are pretty big goals. They're broad and often hard to achieve. But what if we took one of these goals and turned it into a series of smaller, more achievable ones.

"Too be happy"

What makes me happy? Well, among other things:

  • Riding my motorbike
  • Spending less time at my desk
  • The feeling I get after exercising

I could go on…but by breaking down my larger goal of being happy (who doesn't want this?) I can find ways to move closer to my end goal. I can make time to get out on the bike more. I can try to spend less time at my desk and get out to different places and of course I can do more exercise.

If I can do these three little things I'll no doubt be in a better place and be more likely to hit other goals I have.

I've probably bitten off a little more than I can chew with my search for happiness. But by splitting a huge goal into smaller attainable ones I'm more likely to be incentivized to continue my search. Give yourself small wins.

Neon sign saying Focus

My struggle with Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS)

An easy way to get lost on the way to completing a goal is by losing focus. It's no secret that I suffer from Shiny Object Syndrome. It's something I struggle with but am finally starting to beat into submission. Distraction can lead to a needless expenditure of energy that risks being wasted when the next shiny object comes into sight.

If you're not focusing on a larger goal, you're drifting. I've half-built countless projects over the last 12 months but have been lucky enough to be pushed back on track by friends who see it for what it is… a lack of focus.

"Nathan, you're starting too many projects, focus"!

My need for immediate goal stimulation had me searching in places that are off the table (for now).

How goals relate to the bigger picture

Sometimes a goal can seem so distant that it's easy to lose sight of how far you've come. When this happens you risk abandoning altogether.

The idea for Nusii was born some 12 months ago. I wanted to build a new kind of proposal service that was exclusive to the Spanish market. My Spanish design friends told me I was crazy, and as you're reading this in English you can see that they were mostly right. I took another path, and I'm glad I did (No offence Spain, you know I love you).

12 months is a long time to work on a project, especially when it's self funded. So where does the continual desire to move forward come from? For me it comes from the small wins that I setup for myself and the desire for something better. The small wins nudge me in the right direction, forward.

Of course having larger goals isn't always easy, Nusii was almost abandoned at the end of 2013. After building the MVP I ran out of money. I had a handful of customers, but the service just wasn't up to par. It wasn't until I looked to my bigger goal of creating a simple proposal solution for design professionals that I realized quitting wasn't an option. I teamed up with my now co-founder Michael and we're making it happen! (Get on the early access list here)

It's all about the endgame

The goal is important, but it's not everything. It's not if we get there, but how we get there and what we learn along the way. Yes I know, all very hippy. But this is why we need broad sweeping goals like "be happy", "earn a million" or "own a sports car".

We need these motivational carrots to keep us moving in the right direction. And maybe we'll never make a million, maybe we'll never own a sports car, but what will we have learned on the way? Will we even want that million when we realize that perhaps it was the desire to get there that excited us more? Be sure to let me know!

Goals are important, but the journey is more so. Enjoy them both.

Good luck

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