157. much ado about Goals

Rama Nimmagadda
4 min readMar 29, 2024
Photo taken by Prateek Kumar Rohatgi in 2022 in the Sahyadri Hills, India

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” ― John C. Maxwell

There are people who set up big hairy audacious goals and with great determination and resolve, more often than not, achieve those big goals. Good for them. But it is my belief that these people are exceptions. Most people do not set up big hairy goals in the first place. The goals that people do set up are either short term in nature — like I want to lose 10 Kgs weight before end of this year — or not audacious enough — like, I want to become a Millionaire by the time I retire (thirty to forty years later).

“The most successful people are those with the best habits.” — James Clear

On the face of it, goals can be very useful. They have the power to channel focus, energy and time to things that matter most. They can bring purpose to actions and motivation to get going, particularly when you hit setbacks. Then what is the problem with goals?

Goals can become the be-all and end-all of their pursuit. They can crowd out other, often meaningful, opportunities. Goals are imagined at a point in time taking into account various constraints and options at that time. But with time, things change. Perhaps a goal may lose some of its significance due to later developments in your life. But if you have resolved in the past that that goal was a very important priority for you then you may be less sensitive to changing circumstances in your life — particularly around the importance of that goal. You may continue to go about that goal as if your life’s purpose is embodied in it. As an example, as a young and ambitious employee, let us say that your goal was to become CEO of a firm before you turn 40, With time you get married and you are having to invest meaningful time in keeping your marriage intact. If your CEO goal is still important, you may end up spending a disproportionate amount of time on that goal and may lose your marriage in the process. Although the number “40” may have been meaningful when you were young, later even if it not objectively that important anymore, you may stick to it because you previously committed to it as your life’s big priority.

“Success is the product of daily habits — not once-in-a-lifetime transformations.” — James Clear

Let us take a much more common example of wanting to lose weight. Weight loss of 15 Kgs can at best give you temporary satisfaction of accomplishing the goal. These kinds of goals monopolize your mind until you achieve them and then you are rewarded with a brief spell of satisfaction and enjoyment of having achieved the goal. Now that you accomplished that goal you tend to go back to “normal” life (and again start to gain weight). Ironically, this normal life necessitated taking up that goal in the first place. So, all you do is create a problem so that you can solve it and then go back to creating the problem. I don’t think that all we want to do is run around such artificial cycles. I think we would rather spiral upwards in life. Keep making life better. Isn’t it a better idea to eliminate the cause of the problem altogether. So, as opposed to the goal of reducing weight, it is better to stick to healthy eating habits in the first place. Then whatever weight you arrive at, is the right weight for you. It doesn’t matter if you end up overweight on some generic scale.

“It’s not about what you want to achieve, it’s about who you want to become.” — James Clear

Similarly, wealth. Making your first crore rupees or first hundred thousand dollars is good but if you build the right financial habits, you will hit your first crore rupees all right, but then you will continue on to make the second crore and then the third crore and so on — all this while living a materially comfortable life so that your quality of life is never entirely at stake. The quantum and speed of eventual magnitude of wealth become incidental.

Goals for specific outcomes may not be valuable when the end objective is subjective. Instead, it is much better to cultivate appropriate behaviours and habits that give you a high chance of hitting your intangible objectives.


“It’s not about what you want to achieve, it’s about who you want to become.” — James Clear

In a world that celebrates the achievement of big goals, I believe that a far more sustainable and progressive way to achieve extraordinary results is by building the right practices and habits. Habits liberate us from the stranglehold of goals on our minds. They enable agility and flexibility that allow us to deal with life’s curve balls dynamically. Right habits make achievement of goals a matter of natural consequence and better yet, they position you for your best chance at going much farther than your original goals.


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