To achieve anything in life you need to focus on your goals, right?
While it’s true that setting and working towards specific targets can help to keep you motivated, measure your success and remind you of what on earth you are doing this all for, being too focused on the outcome can actually take away from the enjoyment of the process.
In the end, it may even make you less likely to achieve what you want.
In a recent study from the University of Chicago, researchers took 100 students at a university gym and compared those who exercised while focusing on the end result, to those who focused on the experience of exercising itself. They found that the goal-driven students actually perceived their workouts as requiring more effort than the students who concentrated on the experience of exercising, and didn’t think too much about the end result. By thinking too much about their goals, the students were actually less motivated to achieve them, and found the entire process much more laborious and difficult.
Going to the gym is not all that different to running a business or a household or any activity that requires solid, regular effort and commitment. Spending time on repetitive or mundane tasks for long-term gain requires a similar approach, whether you are pounding out a few kilometres every day on the treadmill, or balancing your books at the end of the financial year. The approach and attitude you take can make all the different to your experience at the time, and therefore the overall likelihood of success.
Putting pressure on yourself to achieve at any cost can make previously enjoyable or at least tolerable tasks suddenly feel like work, and in the process, reduce your motivation. If ticking off your task list is the main highlight of your working day, it might be worth considering taking a different approach, and focusing on each task as you are doing it – without thinking too much about the end goal.
Do you want to spend every working day wishing the time away, or would you rather live in the moment and focus on what you are doing? Nobody wants to be forced to do anything, and as soon as something seems like a chore, we can be instantly put off and start procrastinating or avoiding it.
Before you take it to the extreme, there’s no need to tear up your to-do list. Goal setting is still important to help you get started, plan out your strategy and keep you on track. But, maybe once you have decided on your goals, it might be worth your while to take the focus off the end result, and concentrate on the task at hand.
Try to focus on the positives about what you are doing, why you enjoy it, and absorb yourself in it, and you may actually find yourself working more productively and even having fun at the same time!