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The First Steps: Why I Use Effort-Based Goals

Yesterday I wrote my first story. Today I write my second. Before yesterday I had probably written a grand total of 5 articles, outside of schoolwork, in my life. I don’t have the credibility to be taken seriously. But I want to write a best-seller.

If you haven’t yet, go back and read my first story to get a little backstory. If you don’t want to, here it is in a nutshell: I have big goals in life but was too scared of failure to take those first steps, so I ended up doing nothing about my goals.

I imagine I’m not the only person who has experienced this. Or if I am, you should be the one writing this, not me. But therein lies the problem. My problem. I compare myself and my past results to others too often. Because I’m not as good as someone currently is, I project my current skill-level to my future self and tell myself that I’ll never be good enough. We see this happening on social media every day. Unfair comparison is killing our drive before we even start.

Recently I consciously recognized that I was comparing myself to others, especially about reaching my goals. I allowed the external success of others to consume my thoughts. I did not want to look like an idiot (external judgement) or incompetent so I justified that it would be better to not try in the first place and to just change my goals.

One day when I was talking to my therapist I was telling her about how I had all these business goals and thought they could be successful but that I was letting fear of not being the best stop me from trying. She sat there for a few seconds, paused, and leaned forward to say, “Kyle, you are letting others run your life.” She was right, and in that moment, I knew it.

After talking to her and really getting down in the trenches, I felt like I finally was understanding the situation and why I felt like that. I was comparing myself to the results of others and letting that discourage me. The problem with that is that I had no idea what to do to take the first steps.

Throughout my life the first steps have always been the hardest. Once I am in a situation I go back to normal me and am just fine but putting myself in that situation is where I have always given myself pause. I needed to figure out a good plan to give me that extra push I need to start.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this story. I have no qualifications for writing. I have no English degree. What I do have is the goal to write a best-seller. That is an external (results-based) goal, however, which I have never done well at achieving.

To reach that goal requires skills that I have not developed. To develop those skills, I need to put in the time. All of this seems obvious when we talk about what someone else needs to do, yet for some reason when we focus on our situation we try to come up with a reason that it won’t work or doesn’t apply to us. Guess what? We are wrong. The same thing we tell others is what we need to do.

Many people (including myself) believe that what holds us back is fear of failure. The problem is that we don’t dive deeper to analyze that. Why do we have that fear? Usually it is because of a lack of skillset. My high school soccer coach once told me, “It’s ok to be nervous. It’s not ok to be scared. Fear represents a lack of preparation.” I believe this to be foundationally true.

Effort-based goals develop the skills necessary to achieve your result-based goals. To reach my result-based goal of writing a bestseller I needed to create effort-based goals. I personally chose to commit to writing daily for a year. This will help me find me voice and learn what works for me so that I can eventually reach my ultimate goal of having a bestseller.

By pursuing my effort-based goals I feel like I am more in control. I am not worried about the reception of my words and I am not worried about how many readers I get. I still get nervous to put my work into the world, but because I know that I am preparing myself and putting in the work, I don’t feel fear. I know that by following my effort-based goals I will put myself in a position to have external success in the future, all while feeling internal success today.

Result-based goals are extremely important. But if you are struggling to start on your path towards that result-based goal I challenge you to create some effort-based goals to get the ball rolling. You will develop the skills you need and the fear that you felt before will slowly start disappearing as you grow more and more competent. Not only will you reach your effort-based goals, but with a combination of your newfound skillset and persistence, you will reach your result-based goals as well.

Read any good books? Any questions or thoughts? Leave a comment below!

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