When I moved to Austin Texas I had a whole laundry list of goals that I wanted to accomplish. I had been living in Madison, Wisconsin for five years, the longest period of time I had stayed in one place during my adult life. Needless to say, moving to Austin was a big deal for me I wanted to get the most out of my time here.
One of the biggest goals on my list was to climb a V5 (a grade of bouldering problem), so when I got to Austin in September, 2013 I started climbing really hard in a effort to check that goal off of my list. A few weeks later I injured my finger and was out for a month. "That's okay" I thought to myself. I'll rest up and get back to it when I'm all healed. At the beginning of November I was ready to go again. I was in climbing withdrawal and so excited to get back on the wall. By December I had injured myself a second time. This time it was my elbow.
While visiting family over the holidays I had some time to reflect on my last four months in Austin. I was not nearly as far along towards my climbing goal as I had hoped. Even worse, I was really upset that I couldn't climb at all because of my injuries. This was even worse than not accomplishing some arbitrary goal, because it impacted my happiness on a daily basis. I wasn't able to do something that really made me excited to get out of bed in the morning. My new years resolution for 2014 was not to climb a V5. Instead it was to climb 100 days.
This might not seem like a very big change, but for me it represented a change in the way that I think about goal setting. Now, instead of focusing on some arbitrary finish line I'm focusing on the process to get me there, and then beyond. This process will be helpful whether I want to climb a V5 or V15. It encourages me to pace myself and think about my long term health and strength. Most importantly it encourages me to do something I love, twice a week. When I feel sick I take a few days off. If I feel week or like I'm being sloppy I leave the gym. It doesn't matter how long I climb as long as I make it out 100 times. I keep a spreadsheet of every day I've climbed and as of today I'm up to 87 days. I feel stronger than ever and haven't taken off a single day due to injury this year.
Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist says goals are for losers. I agree with him. Focus on the process or system to get you what you want. In my experience if you figure out the right process you'll get there eventually and enjoy the journey much more.