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Goals are great, but they are not the whole story.

Why growth beats goals, every time.

Every Little Helps

At the risk of sounding like a ‘Tesco girl’ – I so live by this mantra.

Growth and progress, however slow , has been the guiding principle of my passage through life.

My professional work sees me delivering many sessions on the topic of goal setting. From setting big audacious goals – dream it and you can have it – to the details of what, who and how. My experience tells me that people give up too easily on their goals because “if they can’t have it all, they won’t do any”

I’m no gardener, but I have great admiration for gardeners. It takes patience, expectation and hard work to plant a seed and wait for the results to blossom, often a year later. Gardeners have big dreams and a belief that this small insignificant seed will indeed bloom into something beautiful. But they also have acceptance that it may not. That poor soil, an early frost or insect infestation may cut their hard work to nothing overnight. But still the gardener toils relentlessly, waits patiently and tries again. Because they love the process as much as the outcome. It is the gardening as much as the garden that brings them joy.

Falling in love with the process of getting to a goal is as important as achieving the goal.

Well, maybe not falling in love, but at least being contented on the journey. Finding a way that works for you.

Like so many others I have always tried to incorporate fitness and well being into my lifestyle. Like many others, I have often found it difficult to do, as fundamentally, I am not keen on exercise.

Several years ago I persevered through three courses of Pilates. At the end of the third I confessed to the instructor that I really hated Pilates.

“Why on earth are you doing it?” she asked.

“Because it’s good for me” I replied

‘Not if you hate it’ she bounced back.

She went on to emphasise the point that there are lots of options for getting fit and strong and healthy and that there was no one right way – just your way – the way that worked best for you.

It’s hard to reach your destination if you hate the road you are walking on.

Slow and Steady wins the race

Go Go Slow ‘ beats ‘Hard Hard Stop’

I paraphrase these words from the wonderful James Clear . He talks a lot about just ‘showing up’ and ‘being in the game’. Let’s say you set yourself the goal of running 25 mins every morning. You wake up after a particularly exhaustive night’s sleep. It’s grey and miserable outside and your resolve is seriously challenged. So just go for 10 mins. That's too much? – put on your runners and walk around the block for 5. However little, however late – just start, just show up, just be in the game.

It's really difficult for me to write these blogs. I like having the ideas and am keen to communicate them to a wider audience. But the craft of getting the words on paper and making sense of them is really hard, and very frustrating. Yet, three mornings a week, I sit down at 0800 and join the wonderful London Writers Salon and join people from all around the globe who are doing something similar. No one, including myself, judges what I do. There is only one rule – you write, or you do nothing. You just commit to the time and space. More often than not, by the end of the session, there is not a lot of sense in what I write, but there are always words on a page – progress!

Exercise – yeah – back to that old kernel. In the gym, more than anywhere else, a mindset of ‘every little helps’ helps me most. My target is 30 mins. This is made up of 3 sets of 12 reps at 5 machines. There are days when I don’t get any set of reps fully completed. Sometimes it’s all I can do to get 15 mins done. But I always show up. My logical left brain argues that it’s a waste of time and energy to drive 15 mins there and 15 mins back for a 15 mins gym session. My intuitive right brain knows that I am showing up and that ‘every little helps’. It’s the psychological resilience that I am building here, not just the muscle. The progress might be slow, but I am still on ‘Go’.

Housework. I hate housework! I hate the futility of it. The idea of spending hours cleaning a place that will be back to a mess within days. But as I have a family and am not a total slob, it comes with the territory. Often, I am overwhelmed by the prospect of a big clean. Cleaning my house feels like the painting of the Golden Gate bridge – no sooner finished than time to start again. So my solution has been the kitchen timer and a mindset of ‘every little helps’. 20 mins of a kitchen clean-up is better than none, even if it really needs 2 hours.

Record progress

Napoleon Hill – author of the best selling book, Think and Grow Rich , once said, and I paraphrase – we are so busy looking up to the top of the hill that we forget how far we have come.

Progress, any progress, matters. We are so quick to dismiss our modest achievements. Too intent on what still needs to be achieved. Another insightful tip from James Clear – have a habit tracker. Make a plan of what you want to achieve and track your progress, big and small. Last summer I set myself a target of 3 gym sessions over an 8 weeks period – an ambitious, but achievable goal. I tracked my progress. First week great. Second week I got sick and no gym. Third week back on track but only one day due to work commitments. But I still kept going and kept tracking. Over those 8 weeks my performance was a 10 out of 24. Pretty dismal – ‘must try harder’ all over the report card. But it was still 10 sessions more than I would have done had I not kept the habit tracker, and given up because I was way off target. 10 sessions that resulted in me being a little bit fitter, a little bit stronger and a little bit more knowledgeable, than had I not started at all.

The Smile File

In my line of work I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to coach young managers early in their career. As often as I can, I introduce them to the concept of a ‘smile file’ – keeping a record of their growth and achievements, big and small. At the end of each month I encourage them to record their successes, and in particular:

What new knowledge did they acquire?

What new skills did they develop?

What new contacts did they make?

Irrespective of who you work for, you are always building ‘Me Plc’. You are the CEO of your own organisation, and as such you have the responsibility and potential to grow yourself.

In summary:

Go for growth over goals.

Stay in the game, but find your own pace.

Track your progress and enjoy your successes.

Thanks for reading.


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Donna Scharnagl
Donna Scharnagl
Jan 23, 2023

I read that if you want to make a habit of something then you need to show up and try not to miss out on the activity two times in a row... this is my goal. I have been showing up (as you said) and I do what I can ... but I try not to miss a day, because one so easily leads to two.

Susan Mul
Susan Mul
Jan 23, 2023
Replying to

You are so right Donna - it's all about' staying in the game'.

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