Don’t Focus on Winning, Focus on Progress

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Why Success Comes From Consistent Effort, Not Sudden Gains

One of the biggest things that stops people from achieving their goals is often the focus on long-term success. You see it in fitness, sales, and business alike – people focused on hitting their goals become frustrated and lose hope when they see how much work they have to do to get there. It’s important to remember that success doesn’t come overnight. It comes as the result of consistent effort over time. Being consistent with your efforts builds up momentum until you’re able to achieve your goals faster than you ever thought possible. So, don’t focus on winning; focus on progress!

In order to be successful in any aspect of life, it’s important to avoid chasing after a sudden gain that you feel will make you into the person you want to be immediately. Instead, you should focus on taking small steps every day toward your goals until you reach them. Whether you’re trying to run your first marathon, becoming an entrepreneur, or writing your first book, the mindset should be the same.

Set Realistic Goals; Don’t Just Make the End Goal Winning

Winning isn’t everything. Thinking that it is can be incredibly counter-productive, as it causes us to set unrealistic expectations, leading to needless aggravation, anxiety, and even depression.

In fact, working to outdo your peers can actually work against you. Our performance can actually decline because we start focusing on the competition rather than doing our best. There’s always going to be someone stronger, smarter, or faster than you; so, your job is to train yourself and control what you can. Stop focusing on outcomes and instead start concentrating on process.

Not everything you produce is going to succeed. If everything you did succeeded, everything would be easy; then, why would it be worth doing? You can spend hours crafting a beautiful essay, then only five people ever actually read it. You can build all of your social channels to impressive degrees, use all of the hottest promotional tactics, and have the strongest page rankings in Google. Then, your latest masterpiece of an article could still completely go under the radar. How could that happen? There are so many factors that could be completely out of your control. Perhaps you misjudged the potential audience interest, didn’t use the right keywords for the right people to find it, or it was just a day on which the Internet was caught up in some trend that popped up over night.

Through my various ventures, I’ve come to realize that success can’t be measured in just successes and failures. It should be measured on what you learn from those successes and failures. You always learn more from a failure. Yes, the human brain is always going to lean towards what’s worked before. After all, human beings like success. Life’s little victories are what we live for; are they not? But, in order to be consistently successful, you need to train yourself to be mindful of how failure is actually an opportunity to learn how to succeed later.

How Do You Set Realistic Goals to Focus on Consistency?

The process of setting and achieving goals can be broken down into three parts: clarity, action and reward. While each of these phases are important on their own, they all require each other to be successful. First, you need to clearly know what you want to achieve. Then, you have to take action on that goal. Finally, you must reward yourself for completing your goal successfully. This can include patting yourself on your back and taking pride in what you have accomplished, but there should also be other tangible benefits, as well. When these three stages work together in a positive cycle, the process to reach your goals will come easier to you.

Sometimes you get so involved that you get too close to something. You start setting the bar for victory so high that you lose sight of the big picture. It’s so easy to do this and I had to once back out of a venture that was setting itself up for failure by not stepping back and looking at the big picture. The problem is when people just keep trying the same thing over and over again. Some people become convinced that they’re simply not putting enough hours into it, that the team isn’t working hard enough. Unfortunately, human beings only have so much time and energy to give. Nothing is infinite.

How to Deal with Failure Constructively

Before you automatically assume you have done something wrong when you fail, take a deep breath. It’s possible that you did everything correctly, and you still failed because there was something you overlooked. Don’t just bang your head against the wall in frustration. In life, there’s always something new to learn. There’s always a new channel to pursue, even if we don’t recognize it at first.

In my field of content marketing, I constantly have to remind myself that in content, there’s always a new niche that’s opened up or about to open up. It’s a matter of training yourself to remain vigilant and constantly work on refining your process. Use each failure as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone, not a weapon of mass destruction.

What made me realize this was stepping back from something that I had worked at for almost a full year. It was very difficult to finally back away. But the progress simply wasn’t there and the effort was burning out. Now stepping back, I realize it wasn’t that we weren’t winning. We’d lost sight of the big picture. There simply was not the depth of field that was anticipated. Because of that, we were grasping at straws trying to make connections that didn’t quite fit. We tried to shove not-so-round pegs into round holes.

One of my most successful self-hosted blogging projects failed because of poor web hosting. This site was reaching over 2,000 visitors a day, but this hit the upper limit of what my cheap hosting plan at the time could handle. It started having immense downtime, ruining the search engine rankings I’d so carefully built up. At the time, I didn’t have a better solution, as I couldn’t afford better hosting at the time. The website had just begun to bring in revenue.

Sadly, after three months of trying to rebuild my rankings with no success, I realized the best thing to do was cannibalize the most viewed and profitable content for future projects. It was a difficult failure to swallow. But, it was an important learning experience, which forced me to focus more on quality than quantity in content. Focusing on revenue rather than raw views eventually made me a better writer and marketer, as well as a wiser person.

Prioritizing Goals Helps You Stay Focused on Consistency

Prioritizing goals is an essential part of being a successful person. However, it’s often difficult to prioritize effectively when you have so many competing responsibilities and interests that you don’t know where to start. Consider what’s most important in your life today, both personally and professionally, then prioritize what’s most important for your personal development in the long term. You might be surprised how much reaching goals in your personal life will positively affect your professional life. By reflecting on these two areas, you can begin to hone in on what really matters right now. Then, you shift your priorities as your life and career develops over time.

The most common advice is to take a moment every three to six months to reassess which of your life goals are top priority, based on evolving circumstances and objectives. During one of these reassessments, I finally decided to take the unpopular move to quit promoting on social media, besides the bare minimum of sharing links to new articles on my website.

For years, I’d always found a way to rise above the noise. But, as social media as evolved (or devolved depending on how you look at it) I simply wasn’t being heard. While in content I continue to improve at finding topical niches missed by others, I was receiving essentially zero traffic from hours spent on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin. Today, social media has become about shock factor and ultimately having your post go viral. Unfortunately, viral content is an exception, not a rule you can live by.

Essentially, through re-evaluating my priorities, I discovered that all of my traffic was coming purely from Google search and Bing search. The views from Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin were often one or fewer a day on average. I ended up limiting social media use to less than hour a day. Eventually, I completely ditched social media in exchange for spending that same time on improving my content to be more tempting search engines. Today, I now get more web traffic with no social media interaction than I did while spending the majority of my work day on social media.

I’m not saying that you should simply ditch social media, as it may work well for you in what you’re doing. In some cases, focusing entirely on social media and ditching blogging can be the right thing to do. It all depends on what you’re trying to do, and what your goals are. My goals involved maximizing my content’s long-term potential to be found in search engines; social media growth had stalled for me, and it was becoming a time suck, only taking time away from reaching my goals.

Growing Pains are a Painful But Necessary Reality

What I’ve learned from my failures in content marketing I’ve applied to the rest of my life. For years, I became far too obsessed with winning, even in my hobbies. I learned awhile ago to bask in life’s little victories, but I’ve rarely been satisfied with the little things. However, the little things are what actually matter. I’ve learned if I write something that only reaches one or two people, one or both of those people could have their lives improved by it. I can’t underestimate the impact of my writing on others, and you can’t underestimate the impact your work has on those around you besides yourself.

Consistency is everything. I found that even being fastidiously consistent with social media wasn’t producing any results other than producing great anxiety and frustration.While staying the course and keep hacking away at something can be the right thing to do, you have to set a limit. Once you’ve reached a set time limit, take time to reflect. Try and take away something positive from every misstep as well as every success. Recently, I’ve debated using social media again in a very calculated and much less time-consuming way, but as social media outlets become more politically charged and toxic than ever, it’s hard for me to want to buy back in to something that has given me no results for nearly two years.

Any great success must involve growing pains. No one succeeds one hundred percent of the time. Many of us struggle just to succeed more than we fail. Consistency is everything. Winning is nice, but it’s important to just make sure you win more than you fail. Remember that the greatest championship sports teams rarely won more than two-thirds of the time. Once you succeed, you have to stay focused to consistently keep succeeding.

Related: Failure is Always an Option | How to Stay Motivated When You Don’t See Immediate Results | How to Be Among the Stars

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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