A lot of us think we need to know all the answers before starting. Or that the goal we choose now is going to last for an eternity, as if our interest are the same now and in 5 years time. So we paint these grand, and sometimes scary goals that requires enormous amounts of work. Focusing on process goals is a great way to achieve larger goals that might seem too intimidating at first.
Another thing I like about having a process goal is that it gives you a clear pathway to follow. You either “do” the process goal, or you don’t. There’s no maybes or buts. You just follow what you set out to do.
But before setting your process goals it’s helpful to have something to guide your goal setting in the first place. For myself, I like to think what kind of person I want to be and what kind decisions does that person make regarding their health and well-being.
Whether you are trying to lose weight, improve overall well-being or are just looking for some direction, establishing your guiding values will help your decision making. If you don’t know what guides your decisions, every opportunity will look like a gift from the seven gods (Game of Thrones reference). A missing value might also be why you are struggling with your current goal.
Once you accept that goals and interests change over time, and just let your values guide you, it’s easier to let go. Instead, you can follow whatever feels right at this very moment. Because after all, you are doing what feels right for you.
STEPS FOR CREATING PROCESS GOALS
- Write down 3 to 5 things that are important to you, things that you hold valuable. I am not talking about writing down “integrity, elegance, holiness” or other majestic words. Rather, write what is important to you. If you are confused check my list below.
- Follow up each answer from the first question with why is this important to me?
- Write down a one practical action that the person who holds the above things important does. This becomes your process goal.
I would argue that focusing on one process goal at a time between all values is the way to go. When you try to dig too many holes at once, none of them becomes deep enough, hence making you feel unaccomplished with your goal and running the risk of becoming discouraged. It takes patience but isn’t that the “secret” to success with most things.
To give you a better idea on how to get started, here’s a list of what I hold important to me. Including my why for each value and process goals I have for them. And no, they are in no particular order.
Note: It took me a long time to build up my process goals and habits to this point. I didn’t start by focusing on all of these at once. And I don’t nail all of these process goals all the time, sometimes I struggle with them too. Although, there are definitely some non-negotiable things on that list that have to get done no matter what.
PHYSICAL HEALTH – to move well, be pain-free and avoid typical lifestyle diseases
- Spend 5 minutes taking my joints through the full ranges of motion daily. The older we get, the quicker we lose the mobility that’s not getting used.
- Strength train 3-5 times per week.
- Do a longer walk or other activity 1-3 times a week.
- Keep my body composition in check by eating mostly whole foods at least 90% of the time.
PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH – to be the best version I can be and to avoid mental deterioration once old(er)
- Meditate every morning for 10 minutes.
- Learn at least one new thing each day, no matter how insignificant it seems.
- Listen to music each day.
- Have a hobby – Play guitar for at least 10 minutes 4 days a week. I’ve made picking up my guitar a very low-barrier goal. Most days, I practice much longer than 10 minutes. But if I made the goal play for an hour each day, I’d never pick it up.
- Stop and practice mindfulness and gratitude at least once in the morning and once before going to bed.
MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS – Because good people make me feel good
- Analyze opportunities and commitments based on how it will affect the relationship I have with my wife. If it’s going to affect it negatively with no long-term benefit, it’s not worth pursuing.
- Be actively present during conversations – with everyone. This is hard!
- Don’t associate with dickheads.
FREEDOM – To avoid anxiety of things I can’t control
- Choose freedom over money – this guides most of my decisions. E.g. I’d make more money by training clients on Mondays and Saturdays but I rather have the freedom to write.
- Say no to things that I don’t value.
MEANINGFUL WORK – To make the world a better place
- Before each session I ask myself: what one thing I can do to help this person today?
- Don’t bitch and moan about my day to my clients. When a client sees me, I want that time to be one of the highlights of their day, not something that they dread.
- I publish a blog post every Tuesday about what I’ve learned and what has worked for my clients so my readers can improve themselves.
All of the actions that go with the values above have a fair amount of flexibility in them. I can still have a couple of beers on the weekend while eating a burger. I am not tied to one way of eating (paleo!) or training as long as what I do feels good for the long term.
I don’t have to meditate if, for whatever reason, I don’t feel the need to. I won’t have to listen to music if I don’t enjoy it in 20 years’ time (god, I hope it isn’t so!), but there would be something to take its place. Or another action tied to the same value would take on a bigger role.
I’m also not tied to a certain line of work, not that I have any plans to change, but the option is there as long as it is compatible with my values and my desire to make a difference. On the other hand, I could also make a difference through charity work, etc.
In short, the process goals may change, but I doubt that my values will change too much. I’ll never want to move poorly, feel awful physically or mentally, worship the almighty dollar or live without making a difference.
Now, this is the hardest part to grasp: all of the values don’t have to be in balance every day. Some days, I might focus more on making a difference and worry less about my freedom. On other days, I might choose to eat less healthy food while enjoying my freedom to spend time in good company cultivating meaningful relationships. But as long as the values stay more or less in balance over the long haul, it’s all good.