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How Getting What You Want Can Sabotage You

Winning the Race

You can’t win enough. You can’t have enough money. You can’t succeed enough. The only thing that can satiate that existential thirst is love. I just remember that day I made that shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.” ~Will Smith

About a year ago, I made the decision to start seriously working out with weights for the first time in my life. I’ve always been an athlete and in decent shape, but I wanted to test my body and see how much of its physical potential I could realize.

Besides, I was approaching thirty and wasn’t exactly looking like the same pillar of youth I used to look like.

Well, needless to say, it worked. Within six months, I got into the best shape of my life I had ever been in. I went from a very unhealthy 170 pounds down to a very healthy, lean, and toned 160 pounds. I felt so incredible, both physically and mentally.

But then something strange happened.

I started to slack off, until eventually, I just up and stopped. I lost the desire and motivation to keep going and keep exercising. As a consequence, within a few months, I fell back into the same shape I was in before I started.

I got exactly what I wanted. I started lifting weights to get into the best shape of my life, which I did. I wanted to get really healthy and fit, which I did.

So then why did I stop? Why did I slow down? What happened to my desire and motivation to keep going?

I just couldn’t understand what happened.

I wanted to find the answer to these questions, so I started doing some exploring, both internally and externally.

The fact is I was duped. Actually, we’ve all been duped.

In the modern era, we’ve become an overwhelmingly results-based society. It’s all about the destination. It’s all about goals. It’s all about the achievements, the rewards, the prizes, the medals, the trophies, the paycheck, and the big shiny things we can acquire and stuff into the big shiny house.

The only problem is this: Nobody ever told us what would happen once we actually got those things.

If a person sets out to lift weights and exercise for the sole purpose of reaching a weight goal, then where is the desire and motivation to continue lifting weights and exercising going to come from once that goal is reached?

Some might say, “Well, then you have to set a new weight goal and go after that one!”

So I’m supposed to just constantly be held hostage by results? I’m supposed to just keep chasing one goal after another, like a cat chasing a string? I’m supposed to become permanently attached at the hip to hitting targets?

That sounded really monotonous, tedious, and lifeless. No thanks!

The answer to my questions came to me when I was watching an interview with a man named Elliot Hulse, a gym owner and passionate fitness coach:

“When we go to the gym with a goal in mind and we just go through the motions robotically, it robs us of the experience of the actual workout. Think about going to the gym just for the workout and not for the goal; not just so that you can put a check mark next to the reps and the sets that you did, but so that you can really become engaged with what your body wants to express.” 

Like most people, I decided to start lifting weights and exercising to get into great shape. I did it for the sole purpose of achieving an outcome; of getting an end result. The problem with that is, since that was my main source of desire and motivation to work out, I lost that source of desire and motivation once I reached my goal.

Getting into great shape and becoming fit was an awful source of desire and motivation. My reasons for starting to work out in the first place were bad ones.

Lifting weights and exercising was nothing more than a means to an end for me. I didn’t do it because I actually wanted to do it. I didn’t do it because I loved the activity itself. I did it for superficial reasons.

As a consequence, once I got what I wanted, I didn’t care to do it anymore. I no longer had the desire or motivation to keep working out.

Instead of lifting weights and exercising for the sole purpose of getting into great shape, I should have started lifting weights and exercising for the sole purpose of loving the activity itself; of loving the physical challenge it presented to me as a way to test myself.

Boom! That was it. That was the answer I was looking for. That was the answer to my questions, and was exactly what I was looking for.

So, I started over. This time, however, my reasons for working out and exercising changed.

With my newfound outlook, I completely stopped setting goals. No targets, no projections, and no objectives. I simply told myself this, and reminded myself of it every single day:

“Love working out. Love lifting weights. Love the challenge of pushing myself to my physical maximum. Love the process. Enjoy it!”

Not only did I get back into great shape, I felt much better along the way. I didn’t feel any pressure to achieve any arbitrary goals or targets. Working out didn’t become this monotonous task that I felt like I had to do in order to justify an expectation.

I actually loved working out. I became engaged with it. It became really fun. I became much better at it, and even performed better.

And the best part? My desire and motivation to work out has never been greater. It’s never faded off. Not even in the slightest bit. It will never run out. Why? Because my desire and motivation for working out comes from an infinite source: The love of the activity and the process itself.

I transferred this outlook over to my work life as well. I have zero goals in my career. I don’t have a single objective or target set. Instead, I tell myself this, every single day:

“Love your work. Enjoy working. Be the absolute best you can at what you do. Provide as much value to every single person you work with as possible.”

To this day, I’ve never been more successful, happy, and fulfilled in my career. I’ve progressed much further than I ever did before since adopting this new outlook. I feel liberated and unshackled, like I’ve lifted a huge mental weight off my shoulders.

Results are always the biggest imposter. Goals are always the biggest distraction. They’re a trap. If you do things for the sole purpose of achieving results and goals, then you’re robbing yourself of the opportunity to really become fully enthralled, intimate, and engaged with the process and journey itself.

You’ll sabotage yourself.

You don’t have to set goals to get results. Results are simply a natural consequence of enjoying something and doing it well. Results are things that come to you. They’re not things you can get.

By prioritizing the process itself as opposed to what you can get from it, you create an endless source of desire and motivation. You liberate and unshackle yourself from the traps of results-oriented thinking. You’re able to do what you love with less pressure, less tension, and less stress.

Not to mention, you’ll still get the results you want. Often times, you’ll get even better results than before.

You might be thinking, “What if I don’t enjoy the process I’m doing?” Well, perhaps it’s time to move on. Quit. If something doesn’t make you happy, or makes you miserable, is it worth it to continue that process in the long run?

Or, you can simply change things up a bit. If lifting weights is a process you don’t enjoy, try bodyweight exercises. Try resistance training, like kayaking or swimming. Keep changing things up until you do find something you can truly love and enjoy taking part in.

Besides, if you find yourself truly unhappy doing something, there’s a good chance that whatever goals you aim to achieve won’t actually satisfy you anyways, or make it feel like the price you paid was worth doing something that made you feel miserable the entire time.

The process is the most important thing. It’s the journey itself that yields the greatest rewards; that makes you feel awake, present, engaged, and alive.

“Happiness is in the doing, not getting what you want.” ~Jesse Wallace

Winning the race image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Will Jonathan

About Will Jonathan

Will Jonathan is a Sports Psychologist and Mental Performance Coach who works with professional athletes, helping them to perform to their maximum and fulfill their personal and professional potential. He has a passion for going against the grain and helping people discover the incredible path of personal growth. You can find him at, Facebook, and Twitter.

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  • Supriya Rao

    Beautiful! Absolutely loved it!

  • lv2terp

    Great post!!! Wonderful perspective, thank you for sharing this message!! 🙂 I like your affirmations and also when you said “You don’t have to set goals to get results. Results are simply a natural consequence of enjoying something and doing it well. Results are things that come to you. They’re not things you can get.” AWESOME!

  • Tony Casillas

    I can’t wait to get all this to start working for me