Enjoy the journey and the destination
Updated: Mar 17, 2022
I love preparing people for interviews. So many clichés come up every time…
“I am a people person”
“My main weakness is that I am a perfectionist and want to get everything spot on”
“I am results-driven…”
None of these statements say anything to the interviewer (the first is a particularly non-interesting non- skill!). However, it is the last statement that I most often challenge, which usually causes some controversy.
I ask “Is being results-driven always a good thing?”
People respond with “But doesn´t everyone want to be seen as achievers, results-oriented goal-getters?”
In a demanding world, demonstrating the ability to be constantly producing is what people aspire to. Setting and achieving goals has become the mantra. There are hundreds of articles out there about how perfecting the ability to set and achieve goals is the ultimate panacea to becoming a successful leader and leading a successful life. If you are not being successful, it is because you either haven´t set the right goals, or perhaps you don´t have enough.
Goals are necessary, don´t get me wrong. However, an obsessive focus on goals can be detrimental to performance.
Here is why:
When we are overly-fixated on achieving goals, we are focused only on the future. Where we are in the present is, by definition, deficient. We move forward relentlessly, pushing ourselves (and our teams) to drive towards the final prize with laser-like obsession.
The days speed by and then, if all goes to plan, we hit our target!
At that moment, if we are good to our team (and ourselves), we may take just a moment to celebrate the win. What a great feeling! A tick in the box. Another achievement!
(btw If you do this as a leader, well done. There are plenty of others who forget the most basic form of celebration or even a thank you for their hard-working teams)
The problem is that the sensation is inevitably incredibly short-lived. Life goes on. There is more to be done. We need to continue towards…..the next goal. On and on we go.
The cycle repeats endlessly, becoming increasingly exhausting, even dispiriting for both the team and its leader. It can feel like a trap.
The way out is to focus on and enjoy the PROCESS instead of the GOAL.
I became convinced of this mind shift after I heard Tal Bin Shahar a few years back in a Conference held by my business school, the IESE in Barcelona. Tal has the admirable record of having the most popular class offering ever at Harvard Business School.
I also had the pleasure to meet Tal after he spoke. He was a really pleasant guy, in line with his “positive psychology” background with a focus on happiness. He signed one of his books for me which sits with pride of place on my bookshelf.
Tal defines 4 types of people:
1. The Hedonists – these are the people that live for right now, searching for immediate pleasure with no thought of past or future. Perhaps not the best profile for either leader or employee!
2. The Rat Racers – people are the opposite of the first group. These people postpone enjoyment thinking that it will come in the future when they have reached their objective or GOAL. In the corporate environment, I would say that this is the most common group of people (who hasn´t lived the rat race at some stage?)
3. The Nihilists – people that have lost all hope and feel that nothing they will ever do can lead to happiness
4. The Happy people – those that live for both today and tomorrow. These people engage in things they enjoy today but have some purpose for tomorrow that is also meaningful.
We don´t want to be any of the first three categories. We need to be in class 4. “Happy People”.
If that sounds a bit crass to you, just think of the concept, which is trying to live for both today and tomorrow. For the leader, this means celebrating the steps achieved by the team during the process itself whilst at the same time aiming for an end goal.
We all know that sometimes the goal is not achieved because of external circumstances. For example, the team may have just made the perfect product pitch, but our competitor slashes their prices and lowballs our offer to win the deal.
If we focus on and celebrate the steps that were well carried out during the pitch process, we keep morale up and our people engaged. This way, success is bound to eventually come. The alternative is to keep going without stopping, without acknowledging that people did a good job. This keeps us all on the hamster wheel.
In conclusion, setting goals is important, but recognizing and rewarding the process and the journey is just as important, perhaps more so. For one, this gives far more opportunities to celebrate good performance. Also, it keeps our people more engaged in the present moment, which is always a good thing.
As Tal Ben-Shahar puts it:
“Attaining lasting happiness requires that we enjoy the journey on our way toward a destination we deem valuable. Happiness, therefore, is not about making it to the peak of the mountain, nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain: happiness is the experience of climbing toward the peak”
If you want to learn how you and your team can better enjoy the climb whilst aiming for the summit, reach out to me.