One Surprising Thing You Should Know to Reach Your Goals

We’re exploring goals on I’m Busy Being Awesome today.

But before you think you’ve heard it all before, we’re taking a different approach from the standard goal setting strategies and tactics.

In fact, we’re challenging several common beliefs about goals to help us gain a deeper understanding of why they play such an important role in our lives.

Because here’s the truth…

Reaching your goal is not the most important part of the process.

Really, it’s true.

And today I’m explaining what the most important part is, and how it will completely change the way you think about setting and reaching your goals.

Are you ready?

Then stream the latest episode below or check it out on your favorite podcasting app!

Prefer to read? No problem. Keep scrolling to read the transcript.



  • Why reaching the goal is not the most important part of the process
  • How you can enjoy working toward your goals (even when things get hard!)
  • A perspective shift that will help you better understand the value of setting goals in your life



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What goals are you working toward right now? What challenges do you face when it comes to following through on your goals? What do you like most about goal setting? Let me know below!

Transcript: One Surprising Thing You Should Know to Reach Your Goals

You’re listening to the I’m Busy Being Awesome Podcast with Paula Engebretson episode number 31.

Hey, friends! Welcome to the podcast. What’s happening? How’s your week going? 

It is absolutely gorgeous in Boston today. The sun is shining. It’s supposed to hit close to 50°. And for mid to late February, that’s amazing. I’ll take it. I hope the weather is gorgeous where you are today, too.

Now really quick, if you are listening to this episode in real time, I want to remind you that the doors for my 6 Weeks to Success course and coaching program are still open, but they close on Tuesday, February 25th. And they won’t be opening again for a while. 

So if you are interested in learning a little bit more about the program, make sure you head to where you can find out about all of the different options and bonuses and packages available for you.

Now, this past week has been the launch, which has been awesome. I’ve done some super fun webinars, and talked a lot about goal setting and motivation. And it’s been so great talking with all of you and learning about your goals and what you’re working toward this year.

One Surprising Thing You Should Know to Reach Your Goals

And since I have goals on the brain right now, I want to share an alternative perspective on the value and importance of goal setting, which is a perspective that’s not often talked about. And in fact, it might sound contrary to what most of us think about as the main reason why we set goals in the first place.

And I think this is such an important subject to explore because it opens up a whole different lens for us to look at our goals. 

And when we look at them in a new way, it helps us reconsider why we set them in the first place. Plus, it keeps us moving forward on our goals, even when we come up against challenges. Even when we feel frustrated with our progress. And even when we aren’t seeing the results that we want fast enough.

Misunderstandings About Setting Goals

Now, to begin this exploration, I first want to clear up a bit of a misconception that most of us have around goal-setting and why we set goals in the first place. You see, most of us set goals with the sole intention of reaching that endpoint. 

Most of us set goals believing that the entire purpose of the goal is to reach the end destination, whether that’s to get a promotion, write a book, reach the financial goal, or lose a certain amount of weight. 

And there is certainly nothing wrong with this line of thinking. 

Reaching the end goal is certainly one of the main reasons why we set goals. If we didn’t want to get there, why would we set the goal in the first place? 

So please don’t hear me saying that it’s bad or wrong to want to reach your goal. I think it’s fantastic to want to reach the finish line.

Here’s the Twist

With that being said, I don’t believe that reaching the end goal is the main reason why we should be setting these goals in the first place. I don’t believe that getting to that final achievement is the sole purpose of setting goals.

And I know that might sound crazy, but stick with me.

I think the main benefit and reason for setting goals is that we get to experience the process of becoming a person who can reach that end goal. We get to experience all of the different steps along the way as we take this journey from where we are now to where we want to be once we achieve that end goal.

And in fact, it is precisely that journey. It is precisely the obstacles, the challenges, and the stumbling blocks, that you need to overcome along the way that allows you to reach that endpoint. It is the entire process that allows you to become this next version of yourself.

The Goal Setting Process

Because every time you try something new. Every time that you step outside of your comfort zone or explore a new avenue or idea, you learn something. You build upon your skillset. And you get stronger and more resilient as you stumble, get back up, and take the next step. 

It is this whole idea of failing forward, right?

Building Strength in Goals

And I think one of my favorite analogies for this concept is of a little baby learning to walk. I think about my niece who is 11 months old right now, and she is building all of this strength in her little legs. And before we know it, she’s going to be walking all over the place, but this doesn’t all happen at once.

She didn’t just set a goal for herself one day to start walking. She didn’t just think — in March, I’m going to start walking, and then stand up and start walking March 1st. Instead, she is going to stand up and fall down and stand up and fall down hundreds of times. She’s going to try new ways to walk. She’s going to work on her balance. And she’s going to strengthen her muscles.

And in fact, it is the very act of her falling and getting back up that is strengthening her muscles. It is her falling down and getting back up that allows her to reach that goal of walking. 

The Struggle

So yes, she does want to reach that end goal. Yes, the main objective is being able to walk. But without this growing process in between. Without this transition, you never get to that endpoint.

And when we can stop and recognize the importance of this transition period. When we can acknowledge the value of our own struggles as we fall down and get back up. And when we recognize that these obstacles are all required to help us become that next version of ourselves, it helps us enjoy the process so much more.

The Reward Setting Goals

I mean, just think about it. 

For one thing, if there wasn’t this intermediary time. If there wasn’t this transition period as we work toward a new goal. And instead, we just decided – I want to get a raise, and the next day you’re promoted — there wouldn’t be any reward in that goal. There wouldn’t be any excitement. 

It would just be this commonplace thing did anybody could do at any time in their life. There wouldn’t be any growth or development or change. We would never become that next version of ourselves.

Goal Setting and Sustainability

And what’s more, this kind of instant success — even when it is possible — is often not sustainable.

Just think about the difference between someone who set a financial goal to pay off all of their credit card debt over 3 years, versus somebody who wins the lottery and pays off their credit card debt that way. What do you think the difference will be for each of these individuals over the long run?

Financial Goals

Chances are, the person who set the financial goal to pay off their credit card debt over 3 years, is going to see continued success. Chances are that as they pay off that debt, they are learning and growing and developing so many financial skills.

They’re learning how to save money, and how to make financial decisions, and how to avoid impulse buys. They learn how to think about money, and they learn about the concepts of scarcity and abundance. And develop a healthy relationship with money throughout the process.

The person who wins the lottery, on the other hand, experiences an instant success. And while that certainly is exciting, and it feels amazing in the moment, they did not have all of those opportunities to learn and grow and develop their relationship with money along the way. 

They didn’t learn how to save. They didn’t learn how to make sound financial decisions and avoid impulse buying. And they didn’t learn how to think about money or the concepts of scarcity and abundance. And while I’m not saying that they won’t also be successful, I do think that they will have more obstacles to overcome because they didn’t have that valuable transition period.

Weight Loss Goals

The same is true with weight loss. Let’s say you have two people who want to lose 50 lbs. One person does it by learning more about healthy eating and which foods work well with her body. She learns about the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger. She discovers when and why she turns to food for emotional eating or comfort. And she learns how to listen to her body and eat only when she’s physically hungry. Maybe she gradually adopts an exercise routine and builds up her stamina.

And then we could compare that to someone who does the hot new diet or extreme food restriction. Or maybe they use diet pills or have some type of surgery to lose those 50 pounds quickly. Now again, I’m not saying that these options won’t work. But I am saying that having this kind of instant transformation does not allow our second person to discover and become that next version of herself.

So when she has that sudden weight loss, but she has not learned to establish a healthy relationship with food or understand why she struggles with emotional eating in the first place, maintaining that weight loss and having long-term success is much more difficult.

Because the next time an emotional trigger comes up that usually causes her to overeat, she won’t have the tools to manage it. She didn’t go through that journey of reaching her weight loss goal, so she didn’t learn all of the lessons along the way that would help her maintain that long-term success.

Career Goals

And finally, think about somebody who wants a raise or a promotion at work. Sure, it would be great if their boss came up to them one day and just said hey, I think I’m just going to promote you to a major leadership position today even though you haven’t done anything different from every other day. You are now going to be the manager of this branch.

Again, this would be great at first. And I’m not saying that this person wouldn’t be successful in their position if it happened. 

However, without going through the process of working toward that promotion – whether that means taking on more responsibilities at the office, fulfilling different leadership positions, or taking additional training – they won’t have gathered the tools that they need to be that leader. They won’t have the skill set to fulfill the demands of this higher-level position. 

Without all of the lessons, the challenges, and the fails that accompany this long-term goal, they will have a harder time easily stepping into this new role. 

So just like the little baby building up the strength in her legs to take those steps, the same is true for any other goal that we’re working toward.

My Goal Setting Journey

And I think about this for all of the different areas of my life as well. 

Tenure Track Position

If I would have simply finished my Ph.D. and been immediately hired in a tenure-track position, I wouldn’t have built up all of the skills I need to be an effective professor. 

So as I worked toward that end goal, I also worked as an administrator, which gave me the skillset to understand the other side of academia. I worked as an adjunct professor at different universities, which gave me both experience teaching courses outside of my main discipline and an understanding of how different universities functioned. 

I then got a postdoc position, which gave me more practice with interview skills as well as time to strengthen my CV, work on my book, network with other people in my field, and design and teach new courses in my area of study. 

And believe me – each of those experiences had plenty of failures and obstacles and setbacks along the way. And in fact, it was because of these different experiences – it was because of all these steps – that I was able to reach my end goal of a full-time position as a professor.

Publishing a Book

The same is true for writing my book. If I would have simply written the first draft of my manuscript, sent it into an editor, and they published it, I would not have grown as a writer and researcher. 

Instead, I had to write the book proposal and send it around to several different editors. I had to face not only constructive feedback but also some pretty negative stuff that was certainly not fun to read. I had to revise, and edit, and strengthen my arguments. 

I had to learn new skills in terms of working with copy editors and getting copyright permissions and all of these different skills that I didn’t yet have, but they were nevertheless required for me to reach that end goal. It was all part of the process. It all made it possible.

Life Coach

The same is true for this podcast and my career as a life coach. I didn’t just set these goals one day and reach them the next. Each one had so many different steps along the way. 

Both goals had their fair share of challenges and obstacles. And these obstacles not only helped me learn so much about the process, but they also gave me an entirely new skill set while strengthening my resilience and commitment to my goals no matter what challenges come up along the way.

And all of these different goals that I have worked toward during my life, and all of the different learning opportunities I’ve had as a teacher, and a writer, and a speaker, and an entrepreneur, have provided me with so much experience and knowledge and stories, which helps me better understand and connect with my clients. And it helps me teach and share with you through the podcast. 

So again, it is all part of the process. It’s all needed in order to help you get to that next version of yourself.

The Takeaway

So yes; it is super exciting to reach that end goal. 

Yes, that is where you ultimately want to go. 

And yes, you do want to be excited about the prospect of reaching that endpoint. 

However, it is the process of getting to the end goal that is the real value. 

It is the experience of trying and failing over and over and learning from your experience each time. 

It’s the process of strengthening your resilience, getting back up when you fall down, deliberately looking for the lessons in the experience, and doing better next time.

It’s failing forward.

Yes, it can be hard. But I’m telling you, it’s also so worth it. And you can do hard things. 

Because without that struggle, you don’t grow. It is what’s taking you to that next level. 

And frankly,  it’s what this whole experience of being human is all about.

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