Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter.
Is it possible that the best goal is to have no goals? You may recall the many newsletters I’ve written about the art and science of goal setting, and what a wonderful thing goal setting can be.
Inspired by this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now,” I thought we’d take a different view of goal setting.
The idea of having specific, achievable goals is deeply ingrained in our culture. But what if we tried living without goals? It could be liberating. And I doubt whether it would keep you from achievement.
“You’ll never get anywhere unless you know where you’re going.” Stop to think for a minute whether this is true or not.
If you go outside and walk without any plan as to where you’ll go, and just keep walking in whatever direction you choose, you’ll obviously get SOMEWHERE. It’s just that you didn’t know where ahead of time.
If we use this walking example as a metaphor, it means going through your life without expectations as to where you’ll end up. You’ll certainly explore new places, learn things, and encounter some surprises along the way.
This idea is certainly different than the setting 3-5 goals for the year, creating sub-goals, and then action steps to take each day as you work towards your goals.
But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that life isn’t that neat. Life involves procrastination and sagging motivation. You get discouraged and your self talk turns ugly.
Maybe you revisit your goals and drop some or maybe you set new ones. When you achieve them you feel GREAT and when you don’t you feel crummy. But is it you or is it the goal setting systems? Are you staying flexible enough or are you too rigid with your goals once you set them?
I recently asked someone who switched from goal setting to living life without goals to tell me how it’s working. He doesn’t set a goal for the year, the month, the week or day. He doesn’t obsess about tracking, or actionable steps. He says you don’t need a to-do list, though it doesn’t hurt to write down reminders if you like.
You might wonder, what do you do then? Lay around on the couch all day, sleeping, watching TV and eating Devil Dogs? He says NO.
You simply do.
You find something you’re passionate about, and do it. Just because you don’t have goals doesn’t mean you do nothing. You can create, you can produce, you can follow your passion.
And in practice, this can be a wonderful thing. You wake up and do what you’re passionate about. He says in the end, he usually achieves more than if he had goals, because he’s always doing something he’s excited about. But whether he achieves or not isn’t the point at all: all that matters is that he’s doing what he loves and is passionate about. Achievement will be a by-product.
For me, I’m passionate about keeping things simple, health and fitness, motivation and inspiration, my family life, travel, happiness, getting great things done, and living in the moment. So I’m looking to combine my current system of achievement through goal setting with a looser more flexible, open minded approach.
For instance, I woke up this morning with the idea that I really wanted to stay in the moment as much as I could today. I went for an early morning ocean swim. As I was swimming and thinking about plans I have in the FUTURE, a sea turtle poked his head up.
Now swimming with sea turtles is not a rarity for me BUT it was just at this moment that he stuck his head and body up to get my full attention. And he surely did. It was as if he was saying, “Come on Shelli……You promised to stay in the moment!” For the next 40 minutes, he kept attention by surfacing over and over again. It really was something.
I obviously couldn’t have known this would happen this A.M. and I’ll bet you if my goal was to see a turtle it probably wouldn’t have happened. I love these gentle reminders that there’s a place for goals and a place for letting go and seeing where you end up without a goal.
Yes, this take on goal setting is slightly different, but worth exploring. And I think perhaps the bottom line on how we live our lives is the same, whether you choose to set goals or not. Our lives must embrace passion, perhaps include some planning, and above all, enjoyment of the process.
So if you set goals for the new year, as we come upon the half way mark, take a look at how you’re doing with them. Maybe some need to be remade, maybe some are achieved, and maybe some need a dose of this NO GOAL setting approach. Let me know!
Until next month, may your Joyinmovement bubble to the top and may you be greeted by gentle reminders to stay in the moment,