“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

Zig Ziglar 

Ah, the journey of self-improvement, a path littered with the carcasses of New Year’s resolutions and self-help books that were abandoned faster than my attempt at a juice cleanse. You know, the one that ended with a tearful reunion with a pepperoni pizza. But let’s talk about goals, not the kind you set when you’re feeling ambitious on December 31st, but the ones that actually stick around longer than your average houseplant.

Take, for instance, my venture into the world of soccer in my mid-20s, a decision that has since blossomed into one of the great joys of my life. Initially, my skills were, let’s say, more enthusiastic than effective. I was more acquainted with the turf than the thrill of scoring. But as time went on, something wonderful happened. Amidst the flubbed kicks and laughter, I found a sense of belonging. The camaraderie on that field, the shared triumphs, the post-game commiserations—they all became a cherished part of my weekly routine. It’s a joy that has endured, making soccer (or really, the team) not just a pastime, but a vital part of my life.

It’s the same with goals. We set out to conquer the world, or at least not embarrass ourselves too badly on the soccer field, and we focus so hard on the end result that we forget to notice the person we’re becoming in the process. You aim to run a marathon and become someone who doesn’t wheeze climbing stairs. You set out to write a book and become someone who can tell a story without resorting to, “And then, you know, stuff happened.”

This transformation is the real prize, not the shiny medal or the published book with your name on it (though, let’s be honest, that’d be pretty cool too). It’s about the little changes, like realizing you can actually survive without checking your phone every seven seconds or discovering that you have the willpower of a saint when it comes to not eating the last cookie.

And let’s not forget the failures, the goals that slip through our fingers like wet soap. We learn from those too. Maybe you didn’t get that promotion, but you learned how to smile through gritted teeth and not strangle Kevin from accounting. Or perhaps you didn’t lose those ten pounds, but you discovered that your body is less like a temple and more like a well-loved, comfy sofa—and that’s okay.

In the end, it’s not about the trophies or the accolades. It’s about the person who emerges from the other side of those goals, slightly battered, maybe covered in grass stains, but wiser, stronger, and with a heck of a story to tell.

So, set those goals, chase them down, but don’t forget to enjoy the ride. After all, life is too short to not play a bad game of soccer—a game that continues to bring joy and laughter into my life, week after week.

Stephen Boudreau serves as VP of Brand & Community at Virtuous Software. For over two decades, he has helped nonprofits leverage the digital space to grow their impact. To that end, Stephen co-founded RaiseDonors, a platform that provides nonprofits with technology and experiences that remove barriers to successful online fundraising. He is an avid (but aging) soccer player, audiobook enthusiast, and the heavily-disputed UNO champion of his household.

Copyright ©2024 Stephen Boudreau.