Should you be focused on what you want to achieve (the end goal), or on the process to get there? You need a healthy balance of both.
Being focused on the end goal is important. Yet, if you are focused too narrowly on your end goal and keep measuring to see if you are making progress or not with every step you take, then you may end up getting impatient and discouraged.
This nervous, constant monitoring can easily burn you out, or make you doubt yourself or your chosen path—and you may want to give up. It’s like removing a plant from the soil every day, to check in and see if it’s taking root or not. Or opening the oven every minute to see if it’s warm enough—every time you do that, some of the heat dissipates.
On the other side of the scale, we have focusing on the process rather than the end goal. Focusing on the process is especially important when your goal is far-fetched. In that case, it is better to make the routine itself be the goal. So “writing a book” becomes “write 500 words every morning” and “losing 50 pounds” becomes “follow this diet six days a week and exercise for 20 minutes every day”. You still have a goal, but are not constantly obsessed about it; you are not worried about how far you still need to travel and how long it will take. You just take a step in the right direction every day. This helps you stay on track and not give up.
Just as a narrow focus on the end goal alone is not healthy, a narrow focus just on process alone is also not healthy. If you are too focused on the process, you can get to a state where you are just lifelessly going through the motions. You don’t stop and analyze what is working or not. You’ve built the habit but perhaps lost the emotional connection to your aspiration; as a result, you may feel unmotivated and lack energy in your efforts.
The metaphor of a boat traveling to a destination makes this point clearer:
The end goal is the destination; the process is the work you do to get you there. Without regularly checking if your boat is sailing in the right direction (goal), you may end up not getting where you want to go. On the other hand, if you are too busy checking the direction all the time and staring at the map, instead of actually sailing your boat, you won’t get to your destination either.
You need a healthy mix of both. You need to pay attention to the end goal and to focus on the process.