There's a huge difference between wanting a goal and wanting the work.
Take Steve Jobs. When he returned to Apple in 1997 the company, an after-thought in a PC-dominated market, was operating at a loss and arguably destined for the Silicon Valley scrap heap. It had just cut thirty percent of its workforce and according to Jobs was within months of going broke. When he died in 2011, products like the iPod, iPad, and iPhone had transformed the company's fortunes and built a foundation for years of continued success.
(If you're into numbers, Apple lost $867 million in 1996 and its market cap was under $3 billion. In 2011, Apple's market cap was approximately $300 billion.)
Jobs' goal when he re-joined Apple was to make the company he founded successful. But that goal only mattered in that it informed his work: Building beautiful products that solved problems, made people's lives better and easier, and (not coincidentally) made money.
He couldn't predict -- much less control -- the future. But he could control today.
As Jobs said:
You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Goals are great. Goals inspire. Goals motivate. Goals give our lives a sense of purpose and meaning.
Yet the only way to experience a sense of purpose and meaning is to forget about the goal and focus on the work.
For Jobs, that meant cutting 70 percent of Apple's product line so the company could focus on building products customers wanted (even if they didn't realize what they wanted until he showed it to them.) That meant solving day-to-day problems. That meant building and testing and revising and testing some more in the search for elegance, simplicity, and usability.
He wanted to achieve the goal... but what he really wanted was the work.
Want to someday be the founder of a $100 million company? You can't just want the goal; you have to want the effort, perseverance, sleepless nights, and risks involved in building a hugely successful company.
Want to someday be known as the inventor of a groundbreaking new product? You can't just want the goal; you have to want to spend countless hours in your garage or basement, tinkering and iterating and failing, over and over again, on the way to that eventual breakthrough.
Want to someday run the NYC Marathon? You can't just want the goal; you have to want to go running, day after day after day, in pursuit of eventually running those 26 miles through the streets of New York.
You can't just want the end result. You have to want the work.
And that's a good thing. When you want the work, then every day you do the work, you feel successful.
Because every day you're getting what to do what you want to do.
Which could be the perfect definition of "success."