I used to be a big fan of goal setting. To some extent, I still am. I still value big parts of the entire goal setting system, but, to be honest, I took some distance from some of the mainstream perceptions of this, quite useful, but yet so overrated approach to living our lives (for those of you who don’t know, I even wrote an entire course on Udemy, with more than 2 hours of video content, and quite a few satisfied students so far).
There’s more to life than just goals. There’s more to life than just motivation. Both are very good, don’t get me wrong, but buying only that part of life is like trying to buy stuff with only one side of a coin. There is always more than one size of the coin and there are always more ways to look at things.
Without further ado, let’s start.
1. A Goal Is Not A Monkey
Just because you wish to do something, that doesn’t make it a goal. I often meet with people who tell me they want to become rich, for instance. Well, that’s a very nice wish. It’s also wishful thinking.
A goal should be not only SMART, as they (traditionally) say, but should also have this quality of being authentic. Of being part of your life. Most of the time, people just project monkey versions of themselves (as in an unfinished, not evolved, sketchy version) trying to identify with them. These monkey projections will never become a goal.
2. A Goal Is Like Your Kitchen Table
You should have a very good idea about your goal, about how it look and, most important, about how it fits into your entire life. A goal is something that will shape your life so much, that it will, eventually, blend in. It will be so deeply part of your life that you won’t even notice it.
In the (not quite distant) past, every time I set up some BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) something made it go away. It was almost like I was wearing some sort of goal repellent: it kept moving further and further away from me. Only when I learned how to make it part of my life, just like my kitchen table, I was able to reach it.
3. Goals Are Not Set In Stone
Life changes. People changes. Your surroundings are changing. You’re changing. So,your goals may change from time to time. It’s ok. The subtle irony is that, at the end of a BHAG, you’re practically a different person from the person who started it. You’re somebody else already. What you want now it’s inherently different from what you may have wanted in the beginning.
Sticking to a goal once it has “lived its life” is as dangerous as attaching to a pleasure or succumbing to an addiction. The harm is the same: it’s still attachment to something that’s already dead.
4 Setting A Goal Is Not Enough
Let’s say you got over the monkey part. Now you know exactly what you want, you know exactly how it fits in your life, you have an idea about the cost of it and you’re ready to embrace it. Congrats. You’re just at the beginning of a very long journey.
That’s where 99% of people are stopping. At the setting level. Tomorrow I’ll quit smoking. Tomorrow I’ll start to exercise. Good. Great. You set up a goal. Now what? Now yo have to work your ass to make it real, that’s what you have to do, and always, I mean always, this is way much harder than just setting course.
5 Reaching The Goal Is Just The Bate
The real benefit is always the path towards the goal. Of course, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. The goal is just a big, shiny bate that you’re flushing in front of your eyes, luring your focus towards the end of it.
But the actual reward is what happens during this entire process. Reaching to the goal is fine. It’s great, actually, there’s a lot of pleasure and adrenaline rush associated with that. But, in the end, it’s not that tiny second in which you finished the marathon, that counts, it’s the tens of thousands of seconds you spent training for it. And you know that, already.
6 Nobody’s Counting
Really. This is not a competition. You heard it millions of times before, yet you’re still not convinced: the only real competition (if I can call it like this) is with yourself. You’re the ultimate creator and beneficiary of your own reality. Nobody else is counting.
So you’d better loosen up a bit. Relax for a while. Try to pay attention to what’s happening to you as a result to all those goals you reached to, be mindful of who you really become after all these endeavors and see if you still like that person. It’s important.
7 Living Goalless Is Not A Crime
On the contrary. Sometimes you need to take a break. To blend in. The let the inertia created by your own actions to carry away, without any conscious intent form your part. Doing stuff is great. Making things happen is great. But there’s also this still pose in which you become just a silent witness of your own life. Stay there for a while.
During this time you’re practically goalless. It’s ok. It’s part of the natural process of life. Every once in a while you should let yourself embraced by the flow, and stop using actions as a panacea for your own fears.