The Means as Ends

Goals are important. They establish where we want to go. However, when our progress is slow, it can become easy to abandon the goal. Often, the reason is because we focus on the goal and not the means for attaining it.

Achieving a long-term goal takes perseverance. It can be hard to maintain the drive over a period of months or years, even when we might be making progress. The goal remains in the distance. We can overcome this by shifting our focus from the goal to the means.

As a simple example, consider someone who wants to lose 30 pounds in 6 months. He may weigh himself daily, hoping to see progress. If he doesn’t lose weight as quickly as he’d like, he may get discouraged and abandon the goal. But what if he focuses on the means?

Let us say that, instead of eating fast food for lunch, he decides to carry his lunch each day in an effort to eat healthier and lose weight. His goal is no longer 6 months away—he now has a daily goal. The means become an ends.

By shifting the focus, he can now see progress each day that he carries his lunch. He knows that if he keeps doing that, he will eventually lose weight. And he finds it much easier to focus on what he can do today rather than focusing on the weight he hopes to attain in 6 months.

The same principle applies to any long-term goal: if we keep doing the right things, we increase our chances of experiencing good results.

We should certainly plan for and think about the long-term. But it is often easier to accomplish long-term goals by focusing on the short-term— the means.

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