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Not Feeling Goals-y? You’re Not Alone.

Here’s why it’s okay — even good — NOT to make New Year’s goals.

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I feel like I’m walking into a church and announcing that I’m changing my religion. I’m about to make a case for NOT setting goals this year!

I’ve always been goal-oriented. At this time of the year, I am usually deep in markers and highlighters and planners and spreadsheets, laying out a detailed and color-coded map for where I want to go in the year ahead.

Not this year, and it’s all 2019’s fault. Thank you 2019! A review of my planner/journals revealed:

  • Willfulness accomplishes very little. For the effort and time I put into pages and pages of planning, I got very little direct return. More of my plans didn’t go as planned as did, and those that did work out would have worked out without my planning. Yet, my over-arching goals, including financial, were met or exceeded.
  • The focus on the destination diminishes the journey. The necessary tunnel vision of goal-orientation activates a harsh self-discipline that spawns guilt or perceived failure or, at the very least, a slight shutting down to unexpected pleasures that present themselves in the moment. I’ve come to believe those unexpected pleasures are important expressions of our heart, and should be explored.
  • This is the wrong time of year to plant seeds. Nature is sleeping, and we are part of nature. Winter is a time to go slow or even stop. It’s time to sleep and dream. It’s time to synthesize, to integrate. I have learned it is a waste of energy to fight Nature; she always wins. Things get so much easier when we honor the cycles of Nature that are planted within us.

If this heresy offends you, I understand. Ten years ago I tried to read a book called “Goal-Free Living.” I was so appalled by its concepts, I didn’t finish it. It was like a slap in the face, so counter to the goal-oriented principles I was deeply committed to at the time. I dug it out of the depths of my Kindle library for a revisit. The author, Stephen M. Shapiro, offers these Eight Secrets of Goal-Free Living:

  1. Use a compass, not a map.
  2. Trust that you are never lost.
  3. Remember that opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly.
  4. Want what you have.
  5. Seek out adventure.
  6. Become a people magnet.
  7. Embrace your limits.
  8. Remain detached.

Ok, here’s the tough love. Goals are a given. We are all responsible professionals committed to meeting certain business outcomes. We all have to meet our metrics. But, really? Isn’t that a low bar? Goals are our payment to Caesar. Goals are the price of admission. Goals should be the servant, not the master. A joyful, lucrative, sustainable career (life!) has to be about more than goals!!! To engage in an artful dance of intention and attention, to find meaning in the mundane, to hone in on our heart’s desire in the service of others…now, this, THIS MAKES IT WORTH THE EFFORT.

Photo by Liz Garrett

I am still excited about the year ahead, but In a different way. I am not looking at what I will make of this year, but at what it will make of me. The closest thing to a resolution I have is: I’m not “making” myself do anything. I’m taking a more balanced approach. My INTENTION for the year is: I am very present to what calls me now and watching, with curious expectancy, as the journey unfolds before me. My WORDS are Align & Allow. This is the next turn in my upward spiral. What’s yours?

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