Many of us have goals, projects, events or games that we are working towards. Having the goal to lose 20lbs, for instance, or preparing for a big job interview. Our goals and aspirations are what drive us and keep us moving forward. Without them we would simply be creatures on a green planet with nothing to do. But achieving and accomplishing a goal doesn’t always lead to the euphoria that we hope for.
Maybe we’re focusing on the wrong aspect of attainment. Although the goal is what we’re hoping to achieve, maybe we shouldn’t expect the goal to be the thing that gives us the greatest happiness.
Shakespeare once said, “Things won are done. Joy’s soul lies in the doing”. If you break this down, it may look similar to other quotes you’ve seen, such as “Focus on the journey not the destination” or “The game is what counts, not the outcome”. Although these are great as motivational quotes, there is plenty of relative support to back them up.
Pre-goal attainment positive affect is the happiness that comes while progressing towards a goal. Think of this as the journey. While on the journey, your body receives shots of dopamine, a hormone that helps regulate the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Dopamine also helps us see and move towards a goal. So as we prepare for that big sales presentation, are bodies are constantly giving us shots of positive reinforcement to keep us moving forward.
Your body is built to reward you while you’re progressing and moving towards your goal. This is how the Progress Principle can help us. The Progress Principle says that we feel happy on days that we feel like we made progress on the work that means something to us. Moving towards something, or progressing towards it, gives us the pleasurable feelings that we seek when we complete our task.
This is why I’ve always been a big fan of systems. Although we have goals that give us something to shoot for, we should create and develop systems to ingrain the process of achieving the goal in our lives. Systems are truly a fundamental part of our lives, we just may not realize it.
Think of your morning routine, for instance. Maybe you get up and turn the coffee pot on, then go to the little girls room to unload your built up waste, head back to the kitchen to get some coffee and sit down and read the newspaper. This is your morning system. It makes your morning easy and predictable and is one less thing you have to think about.
Here’s another relative example. Many of us have the goal of losing weight. No matter if it’s 5lbs or 50lbs, we want to figure the fastest way to get it done, because we want to feel the joy of getting the weight off. Statistics show that, of the people that go on a “diet” to lose weight, 95% of them don’t achieve their weight-loss goals, and the majority of those go on to put their weight back on in 1-5 years.
Here’s the issue with “diet”. Diet is short-term. The word alone leads you to thinking quick results and having an end-point. Once you’ve reached that end-point, you can get off the “diet” and go back to eating the way you used to…the way that got you to where you were in the first place. So building a nutritional system that helps you move towards your weight-loss goal, AS WELL AS maintain your weight-loss once you’ve achieved it will lead to longer lasting results and therefore longer lasting happiness and pleasure.
Understanding that progress is what keeps us moving forward will not only help you achieve your goals, it will also help you develop sustainable systems in your life. Focusing on progress will lead you to be more efficient, more predictable with your results and more overall happiness with your life. Next time we’ll look at how to develop and maintain systems that will improve your life.