When you actively and consistently set goals, whether they are financial in nature or otherwise, there is no doubt that your increased awareness will also increase the number of things for you to think about and potentially worry about. The additional worry often times will lead you to look forward to the end of the pursuit, or the achievement of your goal. There is nothing wrong with this, unless that anticipation completely overshadows the value of the process itself or what is sometimes referred to as “the thrill of the chase.”
If you are an accomplished goal setter, you already understand the importance of goals and the vital role they play in the forward progress of your life and the realization of your ambitions. If you know how to set goals and why they are important, you will likely achieve your goals as well. Having an understanding of the importance of goals and their role in the quality of your life, however, does not directly translate into an appreciation for the pursuit of those goals.
If you are someone who is constantly and solely focused on the end result, you may be devaluing an equally important part of the process, which is the pursuit of that result and the corresponding journey you will take to get there.
Results are great, but the majority of your learning and the experiences that you gain in your lifetime actually take place along the path that you travel as you move toward those results. In fact, most of your life is spent in the pursuit stage of your goals and dreams, not in the actual end result of those pursuits.
If you find yourself wishing that your work day was over, is it possible that you will miss out on a positive experience or a learning opportunity because you are not engaged in the moment? If you are worried about the outcome of an event or process, might you be less effective in influencing that outcome because you are not focused on the present?
As great as it is to reach a successful conclusion, much of the joy to be derived from reaching that conclusion is in the work and the effort that you put forth to reach it. Without the value that you derive from the work that you do, your results (even if they are successful ones) will be hollow and not as meaningful to you or your development as a person.
Let’s use my golf game as an example. I am not a good golfer, but I do take the game seriously and I am just as competitive on the golf course as I am everywhere else. I am generally aware of my strengths and weaknesses on the course and what my ability will allow me to do or not do.
Knowing these things also helps me to distinguish between a lucky shot and a skillful shot. Each may end up in the same result on the scorecard, but I can tell you that I always feel better about the shot that I meant to hit and practiced hitting than I do about the lucky shot that happened to end up in the right place.
On the rare occasion that I achieve the result I was looking for, I am aware of the work that I did to get there and the execution that was needed on my part to achieve it. It is a result that I can build upon because I know what I did and why I did it. A lucky shot doesn’t tell me anything other than I may be just as unlucky on my next shot as I was lucky on this one.
Everyone needs something to look forward to, whether it is the purchase you can finally make after saving your money or the retirement you will be able to thoroughly enjoy after a lifetime of hard work. A little dash of luck and good fortune is always a welcome assist in getting you to where you would like to be, but if you don’t enjoy the process that takes you there, you will miss out on an awful lot of life’s experiences and lessons.
If your first thought upon arriving at work every day is that you are another day closer to retirement, you will diminish the value of the work that you do. While there is nothing wrong with thinking about your ultimate goal of not having to work one day, the work that you do today should be important enough to you to focus on the present; for you to learn as much as possible and for you to have as much positive influence on the course of your life and on those around you as you can.
From a financial perspective, you certainly want to properly prepare for your retirement by saving and investing what you will need to enjoy your life when you are no longer earning a paycheck.
If you don’t pay any attention to what your financial needs will be when you retire, you are either not going to be able to retire or your retirement will be vastly different than what you hoped it would be. Conversely, if you spend every day thinking about how much you have to save for the future, you may have plenty of money when you stop working, but you will miss the fun of the present. You will likely deprive yourself from enjoying the money that you make while you are working because you are solely focused on the future.
If, however, you fully appreciate the work that you are doing and the progress that you are making toward the achievement of all of your financial goals, you will be much more likely to find that balance between preparing for the future and enjoying today.
If you can constantly learn from your past and keep an eye on your future, while making sure that you live in the moment; you’ll be right where you need to be most of the time.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.