What’s more important than goals? Enjoying the pursuit.

What’s more important than goals? Enjoying the pursuit.

In my work I meet a lot of people in transit—people on their way to becoming the best version of themselves. Whether it’s a new career or advancing within one, my clients have goals.

Now, you know and I know all the stuff about goals. They’ve gotta be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Agreed-upon, Realistic and Timebound). They should be split into achievable milestones, written and displayed. We should review them regularly. And so on. There are many wonderful theories about goals and goalsetting.

I love these methods because they work.

But I’d like to add something to them. I’d like to offer a filter through which you might view goals and goalsetting.

As you go through life creating and achieving goals, please recognize that as soon as you achieve one goal, you make another.

We get what we want, then we want more. Or, something different grabs our attention.

It’s normal; it’s what humans do. It’s also how leaders and successful people work.

And that’s fine. But, dear leaders and successful people, as you go through your life creating, pursuing, and achieving your goals, please remember that you’ll spend scant time enjoying the achievements. Most of your life will be spent in pursuit.

If you’re happy only when achieving goals but not when pursuing them—if you’re stressed, frustrated or chronically overworked as you pursue your goals—then most of your lifetime will be unhappy. And you probably don’t want to accidentally spend most of your life unhappy.

Instead of tying your happiness to achievement, you might find joy in the pursuit of your goals. In pursuit is where you’ll spend most of your time, so why not enjoy it?

I’m not advocating laziness. You have to work hard to achieve goals, and sometimes have to endure stressful situations. Sometimes you have to just put your head down and “git ‘er done.”

But even in those times—especially in those times—make sure to lift your head occasionally, and smell the roses.

As you work hard chasing your dreams, please take time to stop, smell those proverbial roses, and congratulate yourself on your fine gardening.

Celebrate your accomplishments and mark your progress. Take time to pause; reflect on what’s going well, where you succeeded, and what you learned. Find the good where you can. At the very least, congratulate yourself for working so hard.

Give yourself the gift of enjoying your life.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but life is short and goes by in a flash. Why it seems only yesterday I was building my little corner of The Internet (back when we capitalized both words), and got jobs because my websites had images and colour. In a blink I’m older, no one uses “splash pages” anymore (thank god), and I find myself disinterested in keeping up with technology. (Shhh, don’t tell the hypebeasts.)

I bring this up not to depress you, or as a preface to offering you a Werther’s, but to remind you that life goes by quickly. Please don’t arrive at your retirement before having enjoyed your work.

Enjoy the ride. Treasure pursuit the way you treasure achievement. Because life is journey through not to. Like rocking chairs and roller coasters, the goal is not distance covered; it’s the experiences along the way.


Lucinda Atwood is a master teacher and coach with over twenty years of experience. She works with emerging and established leaders to develop their strengths, skills and the confidence to lead in alignment with their values. Through inspiration, coaching and practical exercises, Lucinda teaches her clients how to contribute fully and effectively while living their best lives.
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