Continuous vs. Achievement Driven Success

In the last two weeks of every year, I enjoy sitting down to do a yearly audit and planning for the upcoming year.

In previous years, my audit + planning doc used to look something more like this:

  • Purpose
  • Lifetime Goals
    • Metrics of Success
  • 1 Year Goals
  • 90 Day Goals

As you can see, it was a bit more “goal” and “success” oriented, which is how most people tend to structure their own life planning.

The problem with this format is that periodically throughout the year, I always found myself staring at this long checklist of goals that I hadn’t achieved.

These goals started to feel like those items you put on your task list and leave for months at a time. If that’s ever happened to you, you’ve probably felt de-sensitized to a point where you don’t even want to look at your task list anymore.

Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling great. No amount of “accomplishment” ever felt like enough and I felt lacking.

This year, I altered my doc to include these sections:

  • A summary recap of how I felt about the entire year
  • Bullet points around things that went well and things that didn’t go so well.
  • A retrospective around the 1 year goals I had set for myself for that year and whether or not I accomplished them
  • An upcoming year planning section containing:
    • Purpose (usually a 1-liner vision statement)
    • Habits to Start / Continue
    • Habits to Stop
    • 1 Year Goals

I left in the 1 Year Goals section because it’s tough to quit all goals cold-turkey and I want to ease into this goal-less transition.

I also added a section around feedback (I was inspired by a really good friend of mine Tam) from friends and other people in my community (this deserves another post so I won’t elaborate too much here).

At first, I felt a little guilty.

In previous operating roles at startups, we always set impossible OKRs for ourselves so that we could always be reaching higher and accomplishing more.

Was I not thinking big enough? Was I missing out by removing all these goals?

Last week, I stumbled upon this picture while reading this amazing blog post from Patrick O’Shaughnessy and it helped to put into perspective everything that I had been feeling.


Patrick laid it out so succinctly with three words: “Growth without Goals.”

The legacy education system and social media drives us towards a necessity for achievement driven success but two things happen when we follow that method:

  1. We feel like we’re lacking all the way until we hit those success “milestones”
  2. Once we “achieve those milestones,” we realize that we’ve just lost the thing that gave us a sense of purpose

Continuous success is about growth without goals. Developing habits into a way of life.


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