In Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead., James Clear makes a strong case for ditching goals and adopting a systems driven approach.
"If you're a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week. If you're a runner, your goal is to run a marathon. Your system is your training schedule for the month."
In essence detach yourself from the end result and instead fully adopt the habit, engage in the process, that moves you toward the end result.
When you're working toward a goal, you are essentially saying, “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.” The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”
Pair Clear's piece with Mark Manson's exploration of the self-improvement contradiction. He posits the goal of self-improvement is to reach a point in which we no longer need to improve oneself.
On self-help material, Mark comments, "The problem is that anything that tells you how to improve your life is also implying that there is something inherently wrong with you the way you are."
"The only way to truly achieve one’s potential, to become fully fulfilled, or to become “self-actualized” (whatever the fuck that means), is to, at some point, stop trying to be all of those things."
We must find balance between continued growth and attachment to the expectations of our ideals. It is not the goal that is inherently bad, nor is self-improvement acknowledgment of deficiency. The danger lies only in our perception of ourselves. We should pursue achievement for the joy of the process itself.