3 Reasons to Stop Being An Obsessive Goal Setter

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I believe in goal-setting still. I engage in it on a regular basis, but I no longer believe in being the obsessive goal-setter that I was. It was too anxiety producing.

I found myself discouraged when I couldn’t check things off of a list, instead of being encouraged by the actual progress I’d made. For those reasons, I decided I’d had enough. I needed to be more focused on my progress than my shortcomings. And here’s why:

3 Reasons I Decided to Stop Being An Obsessive Goal-Setter

1. Because obsessive goal-setting created too much overwhelm.

I used to create task lists of all of the things that I wanted to accomplish in varying areas of my life, on a daily basis. This became too much, particularly because I was writing the lists and looking at all of those things that I had yet to accomplish.

Even worse, I found myself carrying most of those tasks into the next day and the following day, feeling an utter sense of failure at not having completed tasks, or not having checked items off of my task list for an extended period of time.

This sense of overwhelm was tempered slightly when I decided to list up to six tasks per day. At this rate, within the span of a week, I had “only” 42 tasks to accomplish. While I did not accumulate as many unfinished tasks on a day to day basis with this strategy, it was still a failure for me.

Oftentimes, one task was connected to another, as projects tend to have multiple moving parts, and if I did not complete an item on Tuesday, I could not get to the second part of it on Wednesday. This, too, provided for a sense of overwhelm or getting behind schedule. Oftentimes the artificial deadline I had set for myself, added to this pile of anxiety. In short, this all became to overwhelming for me.

I have/had an achiever complex, and was looking to collect items to add to my list of achievements, in a smaller day-to-day sense, but also in the larger context of completion and accomplishment.

This is what the obsessive goal-setting gets at the heart of, for me. This need to call myself an achiever and derive my value from accumulating these “things” that I’ve done. Once I realized that my unhappiness or sense of lacking was deeply connected to this, I knew that I had to counteract it.

2. Because obsessive goal-setting promotes organization for it’s own sake and not actual productivity.

While it can be deeply satisfying to carry around the accoutrements of a well-organized person, it can also be self-deceptive. For example, just because you have a wall calendar, an agenda, a five minute journal, a regular journal, a laptop, a tablet, two phones, and a spiral notebook for good measure to all help maintain your calendar, keep you organized, and maintain your focus, having those things does not actually signify that you are actually getting things done.

Sometimes, having all of these items simply amounts to owning a bunch of gadgets, but doing nothing with them, if you’re not using them appropriately. Actual productivity is not measured by how many times you can write an activity on said wall calendar, agenda, notebook, Google calendar, iCal, etc., but by actually getting the activity done.

It’s easy to fall in love with gadgets, especially this day in age, and even beautiful notebooks, journals, and agendas can be enticing, but what of the purpose behind these items? If the entire point was to establish a schedule to complete tasks, that get you further along in your business or in your life, how is it possible that many people (myself included), have at some point, allowed these very same items to detract from their progress and productivity?

It’s simple: when you are connected to an end, or an idea of what or how much you are supposed to accomplish, quantity trumps quality. You begin to search for solutions to measure how much you can finish, how many items you can cross off of your list, how many tasks you can accumulate, and you look for mechanisms that help you manage and validate this ideal.

When I found myself putting the ideal of organization to promote productivity (as demonstrated by the mediums I used to organize myself), instead of focusing on how these tools could actually help me become productive and organized, I realized I was fighting a losing battle. I knew I had to counteract my obsessive goal-setting.

3. Because obsessive goal-setting promotes focus on outcomes instead of focus on process.

This is perhaps the biggest reason why I stopped being an obsessive goal setter–because I found myself enamored with my fictional, most hopeful outcomes, instead of being focused on my journey and process. This was a bit too akin to childhood–a fairytale or a Disney movie–wishing for the most ideal outcome in a perfect world. I realized that focusing on the end made me miss everything in the middle, and everything in the middle was what really mattered.

In fact, every time in my life that I had experienced lack–lack of time, money, energy, physical fitness, etc.–I became super resourceful as a result. This was because I was focused on how to solve the problem/issue, and that was what propelled me to the next level.

Resourcefulness is a result of process. My process is what drove my outcomes, not the other way around. I finally understood that in order to keep seeing positive results in my life, I had to stop being an outcome-focused, obsessive goal setter, and I had to start being a process-focused person, attempting to live my best life on my own terms.

These are important lessons that I am continually reminded of when the former version of myself tries to take the reins. I implement practical processes that encourage me to focus on what I am building rather than setting a goal for its own sake. These helpful strategies, in turn, fight against my achievement complex and my inner obsessive goal-setter.

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