On Moving Goal Posts and Pots of Gold

Why do you do what you do? Why do you want to do the thing that you want to do? For many of us, particularly bloggers and other self-employed entrepreneur types, it’s critically important to set both short-term and long-term goals. However, if you’ve been in this game long enough, almost regardless of how much or how little success you’ve achieved, you will have likely gone though the “moving goal posts” experience. What can we learn from this?

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Let’s use YouTube as a particularly timely example. Whether you’re more interested in “making it” as a “big time” YouTuber as your main gig or you want to utilize YouTube as a powerful marketing tool for your main business, you know that it can very much be a numbers game. Having so many metrics and analytics at your fingertips makes it so much easier to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, since you have actual quantifiable data to track your progress.

So, let’s say you want to make that sweet, sweet revenue share through the YouTube Partner Program. To qualify, you need 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the past 12 months. So, you set those up as your two main goals for the next 12 months. 

You work toward building up those subscribers. You implement a number of strategies to increase both the number of views and improve your average watch time, working toward those 4,000 total watch hours. Then, one day, you cross the threshold. You’re in. You’ve made it… except you haven’t.

But I Want the Bigger Prize

Not long after hitting those magic numbers — 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours — you feel a little deflated. Sure, you’re in the YouTube Partner Program, but you’re still not making much money and your videos aren’t getting the kind of attention you really want them to get. You want more. You want more views, more subscribers, more money.

Somewhere along the way, you learn about the YouTube for Creators program and its various benefit levels. You’ve already hit Opal level with your 1000+ subscribers, but then you see that you can achieve Bronze level with 10,000+ subscribers. That unlocks YouTube Spaces production access, the channel consultation program, YouTube NextUp content eligibility and more.

Before you know it, you’ve moved the goal post. Hitting 1,000 subscribers is no longer good enough, so you reach and strive for 10K subscribers. Then, you want 100K subscribers. Or you want to have a video get one million views. These goals are largely arbitrary, but they keep you reaching for more and more, because whatever you achieve, as soon as you achieve it, isn’t really good enough anymore. 

Look at those even bigger YouTubers doing even bigger things. Goals, right?

Playing the Right Game

When you set these sorts of goals for yourself, you’re realistically setting yourself up to move those goal posts as soon as you get there. It’s like trying to chase down the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. You think that as soon as you reach it, you’ll be happy and fulfilled and satisfied… except you never really get the pot of gold. You just keep reaching for it, and it’s always just out of reach. 

I just need another 1000 subscribers. I just need to make an extra $500 a month in AdSense. You just need this or that, but none of that stuff is really going to get you there on their own. It’s not about the pot of gold or what you get when you cross the goal line at all. 

Instead, it’s about learning to embrace the process. To love playing the game, so to speak, more than you would love to win the game. This is how you have to go about approaching the world of YouTube, just as you should approach blogging, podcasting, Internet marketing, digital publishing, or whatever else you “love” to do. It’s about finding the joy and fulfillment in the work itself and not just in the mythical pot of gold.

The Winning Drive

Now, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way. Goals are absolutely still very important. Rewards and achievements and accolades are all still very important. They can be great sources of motivation, for starters, but more importantly, they can provide you with a sense of direction and purpose. You’re working toward something and you know which way you need to go to get it.

And when you do, enjoy the moment, and then be ready to move those goal posts to do it all over again. 

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