How I’m changing my goal-setting routine for 2021

If you know me at all, then you know I’m a goal-oriented person. I pick something to go after, and then relentless pursuit begins. 

But this year I’m thinking of things a little differently. I’m focusing a bit more on the journey. The steps to achieve the goals, and experience of going after them.

Maybe it was my podcast interview with David Cummings, where he talks about his practice of focusing on systems instead of goals. (Check that out if you haven’t, it’s gold.) Or, maybe I’m becoming more Zen as I approach the big 4 5 next month :) Either way, I sense a shift in how I approach annual goals.

In fact, the idea of appreciating and focusing on the journey over the goals themselves found its way into my third book, which I’m about 20% through writing (with a, err, goal, of finishing the first draft at the end of this month). Here’s a first-look at a passage from that book, written in the same narrative-style as my first two:


“Well, boys,” Stan said. “We did it. Six months of hard work, persistence, and a little bit of luck, and we’re here.”

“I still can’t believe it,” Matt said. “I never thought we’d hit the deadline after so many setbacks, but you kept telling the team we could do it, and sure enough, we did!”

We cheered our beers and exchanged happy exhausted smiles.

“You know, that’s the good stuff,” Stan said. 

“What, this?” I asked, looking at my beer. “I actually think these are past their expiration date.”

“No, not the beer, Will,” he laughed. “The journey!”

“What do you mean?” Matt asked.

“I think it was Andy Rooney, an old broadcaster that I’m sure you two have never heard of, who said, ‘Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.’ And you know what, he’s totally right. It’s amazing to be where we are right now, having climbed to the top of the mountain. 

“But all the great memories, all that perseverance, all the sweat and tears…that’s the good stuff. That’s what makes it all worth it, and years from now, when we’re all off on different adventures, that’s the bit we’ll remember.”

Thinking back on it, he had never been more right. I could remember the next-to-impossible problems we solved, the arguments we had, how individuals stepped up and realized their full potential in the midst of chaos, and all the major points along the journey far better than what it felt like to achieve the goal.

The journey is the good stuff. 


So yes, I want to write (and publish) a book this year. I want Dragon Army to hit certain revenue and profit metrics. I want 48in48 to build a certain number of free nonprofit websites with a certain number of volunteers, Ripples of Hope to provide a certain number of mentorship hours, and The A Pledge to begin creating real, substantive change in racial equity in our city.

But this year, more than ever, I plan to soak in the experience of chasing these goals. Knowing, as perhaps I always have deep down, that it really doesn’t matter if I hit all or any of those goals. What matters is that I gave the appropriate amount of effort, that I cared for people along the way, that I take time to breathe in the air of perseverance, and that I try to be the best husband and father I can be during it all.

If I can achieve those things, then the goals will take care of themselves.

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