By Daniel Bull

Empowering people to be more resilient, optimistic & fulfilled, whatever challenges they face | Resilience, Mindset, Peak Performance | 🏅 3x World Records | 🌍 1% for the Planet Advocate | 🎤 Motivational Speaker

If you removed the pressure to achieve your goal, would you aim higher and gain more from the process?

As an adventurer, goal setting is part of my DNA. I never feel more focused and energised than when I’m working towards something epic. During the pandemic, I’ve found myself having more and more conversations about the relationship between goal setting and wellbeing. I think it’s because goals help us focus on the things we can control rather than stress about the things we can’t. The mere act of setting a goal can give us focus, purpose and structure while bringing us true fulfillment. 

A lot of us are halfway through our journey for the year, whereas some of us are still in the process of setting goals for 2022. Either way, our minds will inevitably focus on achieving those goals. However if we fall short, we may feel like we’ve failed and be tempted to throw in the towel. How could our reality change if we reframed our mindset? What if we focused on setting the goal and celebrating the incremental steps we take towards it?

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” 

Andrew Carnegie, American philanthropist

With so much uncertainty in the world, setting goals is more crucial than ever. It supports our self-confidence, autonomy and fulfillment. Of course it’s important to have a big, bold vision of the things we want to achieve in life but we can’t undervalue the learnings and growth we achieve along the way. When we learn to acknowledge and appreciate our incremental progress towards our goal, we gift ourselves the freedom to dream big, celebrate milestones and squeeze as much self-development juice out of the process as possible. 

Perspective is powerful. By focusing on what we can control, we unlock opportunities for growth. 

I recently wrote about having to switch from in-person to virtual keynotes due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead of seeing the shift as a challenge, my team viewed it as an opportunity. We set ourselves a goal to create the most energetic, interactive and unforgettable virtual experience possible. We learned so much about technology and ourselves along the way.  

“When we are faced with difficult situations, it’s easy to worry about the things we cannot change. In doing so, we may miss the opportunities that arise from times of adversity.”

I was chatting to a friend last week who has set a goal of running a half marathon within 12 months. During lockdown, she was feeling frustrated and wanted to channel her energy into something positive. She decided not to focus purely on the end result but rather her weekly progress. That approach meant her ambition went from a safe goal of running 10km (6.2 miles) to a bold goal of running 21.1km (13 miles).

She hasn’t reached her goal yet but she’s celebrating every time she reaches a distance milestone. Not only has her health and wellbeing improved, the experience has positively influenced other areas of her life including her focus at work and her relationships. I have no doubt she will achieve her goal but if she doesn’t, she has extracted so much value from working towards it. 

Whatever your goal – whether it’s running 5km, learning a new language, going for that promotion or climbing a mountain – focusing your energy on something you believe in can be truly life-changing. 

Goal setting is not about a point in time. It’s a continuous life skill that crafts a fulfilling and purposeful life.

Sometimes when you achieve a goal you can be left with a huge void to fill. Everyone always asks me about how I managed to get to the top of Everest. They want to know how I prepared, how I faced the many challenges and how it felt to reach the top. No one ever asks me about the aftermath. 

“After I climbed Everest,  I met up with some friends at a pub to celebrate. As everyone raised their glasses, I couldn’t shake this feeling of emptiness. I’d achieved a massive life goal and thought, now what?” 

I was living in London at the time and I remember walking around the cold streets feeling a bit lost. I was proud of what I had accomplished and enormously relieved that I’d reached the summit on my first attempt and returned with all my digits intact. At the same time, I no longer had a clear sense of direction. Although the training and preparation had been brutal, it had given me something to focus on each day   milestones to celebrate. All that was gone. 

That’s when my friend Dicky (also known as Richard) called and said, “Daniel, you’ve climbed the highest mountain in the world. Have you considered climbing the highest mountain on every continent? How hard could it be?” At least that was his sentiment. I have to laugh in hindsight. Yes Dicky, sure mate, just like a walk in the park!

I immediately Googled the Seven Summits and set a new goal that would turn into a decade long quest. My inner fire and focus returned. The act of setting a new goal had me feeling pumped. I pictured the outcome and started making incremental steps towards it.

We have a fundamental human need to be in motion. Moving towards something that truly matters is medicine for the soul. 

The form of the goal is not what matters, the setting of it is. My passion happens to be heights. For you, it may be something entirely different. You might want to learn to cook a new cuisine or learn to play a musical instrument. You might want to launch a new business or complete a postgraduate degree. Will there be setbacks and factors out of your control along the way? Without doubt. Will you reach your summit? Hopefully, but not always. Will you gain a sense of purpose and fulfillment via the process? Absolutely. 

As you chase your goals for 2022, take control of what you can. Set goals that propel you forwards on an expedition of self-discovery. Put your heart and soul into achieving something that will bring you joy. You may get there, you may not, but you’ll learn invaluable lessons along the way. 

-Daniel Bull

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