265 – The Road to Growth: Why the Journey Matters More Than the Destination

Why do you set goals? Why is it important for you to accomplish those goals? Today I want to talk about why we should try to accomplish goals, even we never achieve them.

“That which we desire lies across an ocean of hard won knowledge.”

— @TheStoicEmperor (twitter)


Because we live in an achievement driven culture we often feel like if we don’t achieve certain things that we are falling behind. Whether that’s getting a college degree, making a certain amount of money, or achieving a certain amount of fame, there are always areas where we may feel like we’re not accomplishing what we think we should.

But, let’s stop and think for a moment. Is there anything in this world that we actually have to accomplish? If you think about it from the most basic level, the only thing you really need to accomplish in this world to be a successful human is basic survival. Everything else is just things that we choose to do. There is nothing that we actually have to do.

So if that’s the case, why do anything?

Because part of being a human being is to learn and grow. It’s fundamental to our nature. It’s hardwired into us. I mean, just look at a baby. They can’t help but learn and grow. They’re always curious about everything and trying to learn and understand anything they come in contact with. They’re always making noise as they figure out how to speak. Curiosity, learning, and improvement are very natural things.

Process vs. Outcome

“Give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths.”


Have you ever had a time when you accomplished an important goal? Maybe you worked hard for a promotion at work, or you got a car that you had always dreamed of only to find that you were happy about it in the moment, but a few weeks or months later, you were at the same level of happiness as before you achieved you goal? This is because far too often we get stuck on the outcome, of thinking that the actual achieving the goal that will make us happy.

In study after study, scientists have found that even when they achieve some goal, people find that their happiness only lasts for a short period of time, then they find themselves at the same level of happiness as before they achieved it. This is called the Hedonic Treadmill, meaning that in order to sustain the same happiness, we have to keep achieving even more because we are never satisfied.

So if this is the case, if we are not happier after we achieve out goals, then why should we even try to achieve or accomplish anything more? Why not just coast along and do the minimum in life?

We work to achieve our goals not for the outcome of the goal, but because of the person we will have to become in order to achieve that goal.

We go after goals because of the growth and change that will happen when we try to accomplish them. The work that we put in to achieve those goals stretches us in ways that otherwise would not occur in our everyday life. The skills we have to learn and the processes we have to put in to place will help us become a better person. The journey to a goal is far more important than the goal itself. A goal is something to give us a direction.

Man on the Moon

In 1969, the US landed the first manned craft on the moon. This goal had been started years earlier when President John F. Kennedy challenged NASA to put a man on the moon before the Russians did. While part of the reason for this goal was to prove military superiority over the Russians, Kennedy also knew that to land a man on the moon was an audacious goal.

In a speech to Rice University in 1962, Kennedy said:

“We choose to go to the Moon… We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”

Kennedy knew that work needed to get a man on the moon would be the organizing principle behind great advances in humanity. The technology that would have to be created to accomplish such a goal would need to be invented. He knew that discoveries in mathematics, engineering, material science, and many other fields would need to happen before we able to successfully have anyone striding on the lunar soil. He knew that even if we failed, the progress that we as a society would make in trying to reach the goal would be incredible.

From that one goal, we now have all kinds of amazing technology. Things like improved fireproof gear that was created for astronauts is now standard in fire departments around the world. Other inventions that are in wide use include water filtration systems used to purify water, freeze dried food, camera technology for telescopes that is now used in mobile phone cameras so you can thank NASA for your selfies. We have integrated circuits that are in almost everything tech based, and even ski goggles that filter out blue light so that you hit the slopes without being blinded. These are just a few of the myriad technologies that came from trying to hit an audacious goal.

So what are the stumbling blocks that can get in the way as we work to achieve our goals? What can we do to be sure that we’re getting the most out of our journey on the way to accomplishing what we set out to do?


“People are always looking for shortcuts. The only way to achieve greatness in life is to have patience, consistency, and discipline.”

— David Goggins

Because you are trying to live the stoic ideals, the stoics believe strongly in justice as one of the four major virtues. Cheating to win or to accomplish your goal obviously doesn’t help you live the virtue of justice. You should hold yourself to high standards, and to achieve your goals ethically. Doing so is an important part of building your character.

But the biggest reason why cheating is a waste, is that if you cheat to get your goal, while you may actually get the outcome you want but in doing so, you miss the growth that comes along with it. Remember, the goal is not the point, it’s what you become while trying to achieve that goals that matters. Even if no one else knows that you cheated, the person who loses is you. You may have the outcome you want, but deep down it’s a hollow victory.


“True success is achieved by stretching oneself, learning to feel comfortable being uncomfortable.”

— Ken Poirot

So what happens if you work really hard but never achieve your goal? I know plenty of people that won’t even set goals because they feel like they will never reach them. Even if you never actually accomplish the goal, you will still grow in trying to accomplish it. You will learn something. You will still grow and gain skills in whatever area you are working on. These things matter far more than actually achieving the goal.

This is why setting a challenging goal that seems like it’s out of your reach is still a great thing to do. The trick is to not focus on whether or not you achieve the goal, but that you are continually moving towards that goal. Making progress is far more important than the actual outcome. Defining yourself as a failure simply means that you haven’t achieved some expectations that you set for yourself. If you are making progress, you are not failing.

Set Worthy Goals

“So, concerning the things we pursue, and for which we vigorously exert ourselves, we owe this consideration – either there is nothing useful in them, or most aren’t useful. Some of them are superfluous, while others aren’t worth that much. But we don’t discern this and see them as free, when they cost us dearly.”

— Seneca

Because we want goals to help us grow, we need to set goals that challenge us. If we set easy goals that don’t challenge us, then they aren’t really helpful. We might be reaching and completing goals, but if the goals don’t help you grow then they aren’t really helpful.

If you want to be better, set goals that scare and excite you.

This is something that I’m experiencing right now. As I’m working on attracting coaching clients for my mastermind and other programs, it often produces anxiety because I’m having to learn all kinds of skills such as how to create courses and masterminds that are helpful for others. I’m learning how to write copy that explains the value my programs offer, how to create videos that are entertaining, and how get better at posting on social media. I’m learning to manage my time better and how to get more organized.


“Show me someone for whom success is less important than the manner in which it is achieved. Of concern for the means, rather than the ends, of their actions…I want to see him. This is the person I have looked for a long time, the true genius.”

— Epictetus

Another aspect to think about when you work on achieving your goals is to not take shortcuts or scrimp on the quality of your work. Remember, the reason for the goal is for you to grow, so part of that growth is learning to do high quality work. Just as with cheating, the more you slack on how well you do something, the more you cheat yourself by not learning how to do things at a high standard.

Now, doing good work does not mean that you have to do it perfectly. Perfectionism is the killer of great things. Perfectionism is born out of insecurity and a need to please others. We feel like we have to get it just right in order for us to feel like we are good enough for other people to appreciate us. Doing good work means that we do the best that we can, at the level we are able to work at, and take into consideration any other circumstances.


Goals are something that are important for us to set, but we need to understand that achieving the goal is probably the least important part of the process. Goals are something we need to use because of the growth that they will bring. We need to set goals that will help us become the people that we want to be. They need to be challenging and uncomfortable. While the outcome of the goal might be something great, the person you’ll be on the other side of that goal will be even greater.

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Challenges Coffee Break stoicism

141 – Motivation and Willpower

Motivation and Willpower

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation and how we accomplish the goals that we set out to do. And I think there’s a bit a confusion about motivation and how it helps us get things done. Let’s take a look at the definition of motivation:

The state or condition of being motivated or having a strong reason to act or accomplish something

And let’s look at the definition of willpower:

Control of one’s impulses and actions; self-control.

Motivation is the reason why you want to do something. It’s the fuel that gets going. It is not the thing that actually propels you. The engine that actually gets you to do something is willpower.

Willpower is “like a muscle that can be strengthened with use, but it also gets fatigued with use,” says John Tierney, co-author of Willpower, with Roy F. Baumeister. If you simply rely on willpower to get you to do something, it’s going to take a lot of effort. According to the authors, the best way to reduce willpower fatigue is to turn something into a habit or a routine, which takes a lot less willpower.

Just Do It

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

– Epictetus

Sometimes we wait until we “feel” like doing it. The problem is, we may never feel like it. Usually, the motivation to do something comes after we get started. The hardest part about working out at the gym is often just getting yourself to go to the gym. The hardest part about writing is just sitting down and getting started. If you can eliminate the barriers to getting started, then your chance of success is far greater than waiting for inspiration.


One the most important factors though is what Epictetus reminds us:

“To make the best of what is in our power, and take the rest as it occurs.”

– Epictetus

Sometimes, we attach some kind of negative emotion to the task we’re trying to accomplish. The task may feel overwhelming, or just plain scary. We may be too focused on wanting a specific outcome and we’re afraid that we won’t be able to do it. By focusing on the things that we can control, then we can focus our time and energy on something that will actually have some impact, and not waste our time on things we can’t control


Most people who are successful create a process for accomplishing what they want. They figure out what they have control over, then put down the steps to accomplish their task, and then they follow those steps every time. They create an environment where it’s easy for them to fall into that routine, and where there are limited distractions.

Marcus Aurelius said,

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

If there is something that is distracting you, if it is something within your control, you find ways to either take care of it right then or plan time to take care of it later. If it is something you can’t control, you let go of it.

For example, Stephen King sits down and writes 10 pages every day. He doesn’t care if they are good. He writes 10 pages while listening to the same Metallica album at a little desk in his office. He doesn’t wait to feel motivated. He removes all distractions and just does the task he set out for himself in his routine, and he does it every day.

Create Your Plan

You can start off by asking yourself some questions (I’d suggest writing the answers down):

  • What are the things that I can control?
  • What are the steps that I need to take?
  • What are the tools I need to accomplish it?
  • What are the obstacles in my way?
  • Are there other potential obstacles that I can think of?
  • What steps can I take to work through those obstacles?
  • What can I do to create an environment that eliminates distractions and helps me focus?

Once you have those questions answered, you have the start of your plan. Create an environment that is most conducive to helping you accomplish the tasks. The next thing is to just start doing it. Often times, this is the hardest part. If you wait until you “feel” motivated, you probably won’t. Just do it for 3 minutes then quit if you want. You can do just about anything for 3 minutes, and usually, once you get started doing something, it’s easier to keep that momentum going, and you usually feel even more motivated to keep doing it.

Remember, a routine will beat relying on motivation and willpower any day.

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

Awareness Challenges Coffee Break

125 – Little By Little

Little By Little

“Well-being is attained little by little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself.”

― Zeno of Citium

Show Notes:

• Zeno of Citium was the original founder of the Stoic school of philosophy.

• Not much of his writing survived, which is why he is not quoted very often when it comes to Stoic philosophy.

• But I really like this quote as it talks about the importances of small habits to help us attain our well being and inner peace.

• Working on things daily like recognizing what we can and can’t control, recognizing how our opinions on things shapes our view of whether we consider something good or bad, and so many other basic principles that we can practice daily.

• This can be applied to our lives in so many areas.

• We need to be careful of in life is to focus too much on the grand gestures, and not enough on the little things.

• While I think it’s in some way easier to notice the bigger gestures, to me it seems that that the smaller things are the ones, that in the long run have a bigger impact.

• While the big events or projects are the ones that stick out, it’s the small habits that we have that help us achieve those bigger goals.

• Getting up each morning to go for a run will have bigger impact on your life than the marathon you run.

• It’s the getting up each morning that makes it possible for you to actually run the marathon.

• In our relationships, it’s often the small things that we do for each other that mean more more than flowers or chocolates.

• One of the fondest things I remember about my father is him getting up early each morning and making us breakfast before I headed off to high school.

• Getting up each morning and writing in my journal, writing this podcast, recording this podcast are all daily habits that have transformed my life.

• Focusing on a small principle, even for a few minutes a day sets the tone for the day.

• And the more that I write my ideas down for a podcast, the easier it becomes to take an idea and run with it.

• And recording, while it still takes some time, has gotten so much easier, and smoother.

• I’m sure that you’ve noticed how much smoother thing have gotten over the course of this podcast.

• I can see for myself I’ve gotten better about expressing these ideas, and more relaxed and more comfortable in front of the mic then I ever was in the past.

• All of this has sprung from a daily habit of just writing in my Stoic Journal.

• Rome wasn’t built in a day, but little by little. A good life is built the same way – little by little.

Photo by Heidi Sandstrom. on Unsplash