The Goal is not the point

three peonies

I know, I know. It’s not the New Year when people set goals for the coming year, but … we are already halfway through the year, and if you are one for goal-setting, then you are probably taking stock.

I was in a Zoom call with Richard Ralston last week talking about accountability and the subject of goals came up. Most people think about goals as somewhere to get to, but it makes a difference if you think of them as your direction. I read a few articles, and this one by James Clear caught my attention. It goes like this:

“Imagine, for a moment, that your life is like a treasure hunt. Like any good treasure hunt, you have a map to guide you. In life, the map is your corner of the universe. Some of the areas on the map you know quite well. These areas are the places and people and things that you’re familiar with and that are part of your daily life.

Other areas of the map are foreign to you. These yet-to-be-explored regions are home to the milestones in life that you can imagine reaching, but that have eluded you thus far. This undiscovered portion of the map is where your hopes and goals and dreams live. These goals are like little pieces of buried treasure that are hidden somewhere out on the map that you hope to get to soon.

One day, a particular goal grabs your attention and you decide to set out on a treasure hunt.

treasure hunt

Searching for Buried Treasure

You begin the long hike toward your treasure and encounter a challenge or two along the way. Already the actual path is starting to look different than the buried treasure you imagined. This whole time, you had been imagining a chest filled with gold. After uncovering the treasure, however, all you can find are a few scraps of silver and some antique relics. These items are valuable in their own right, for sure, but they were not what you were thinking about this whole time.”

Have you ever been in a similar situation? I know I have. And you feel disappointment and confusion for a while, you feel cheated. All that work for what?

But maybe we can look at it from a different standpoint: instead of focusing on the goal and how fast we can get there, we commit to the goal. And then do something uncharacteristic: we just focus on the way forward. One tiny step at a time; you put your energy into the journey and follow the path you are walking knowing that this direction is right for you.

In other words, your goal becomes your compass, not your buried treasure. THE GOAL IS YOUR DIRECTION, NOT YOUR DESTINATION. A mission that you are on, a path to follow.

“As far as I can tell, [success] is just about letting the universe know what you want and working toward it, while letting go of how it might come to pass. Your job is not to figure out how it’s going to happen for you, but to open the door in your head and when the doors open in real life, just walk through it. Don’t worry if you miss your cue. There will always be another door opening.”

–Jim Carrey

Once you have your goal, decide on ONE thing and how you are going to do it. JUST ONE THING: One single, easy, immediately doable tiny step. No right or wrong. And then answer the question: When? when am I going to do this one single, easy doable tiny step? It can be right now; in 10 minutes’ time, in one hour, or tomorrow … Write it down and commit to it. The step is so small that you are successful and you can cross it out right away. And then set the next single, easy, immediately doable tiny step.

I wanted to do some free-motion quilting on a piece I was working on so I could start painting. My ONE single step was … to turn on the sewing machine! Cross that out. The next single easy immediately doable tiny step was to change the thread. Done! Cross that one out. Next was to put the piece of fabric under the needle. Done! Do you get the idea? When I first talked about it when asked, I said: “I am going to finish quilting that piece” – and I pointed. And Richard who was leading the call said: “Nope – that’s a huge goal – break it down. ONE single, easy, immediately doable tiny step. Where do you start? By turning on the sewing machine”.

Go ahead. Break your goal down into easy, immediately doable tiny steps. Concentrate only on the next one. When? Write it down. And then do it. Cross it out and write down the next one.

I’m going to go cross out my next tiny doable step: tear out a piece of freezer paper.

Have a great week! Enjoy the sun and stay hydrated. Until I write again,


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  1. Thank you for the great post and reminder Ana! The journey of a thousand miles, begins with the first step. How often we forget that as we can rush from one task to the next. xoxo

  2. Thank you for the great post and reminder Ana! The journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step. How often we forget that as we can rush from one task to the next. xoxo

  3. Hi, Ana,
    I just wanted to say I enjoy your posts and find them helpful. Setting goals. I like the way you broke it down to tiny steps. Setting goals and reaching them always seemed like deciding to reach for the unreachable star. Now it just means deciding to turn on the sewing machine! Thanks!

  4. Little doable steps – great reminder. I often beat myself up that I haven’t yet achieved “the whole thing”, when I should be celebrating the progress steps along the way. I try to, but I do lose track sometimes.

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