Goal setting gives your life and actions directions so rather than wandering aimlessly, you are moving in a particular direction. You are spiraling up instead of spiraling down. Goal setting is extremely important in my opinion. At least it is for me at this stage of my life. I believe I have read that studies show that people who set goals are more successful than those who don’t.
I’m sure there are some people who are at a point in their lives or have a particular personality where goal setting is not as important as it is to others. Further, I think like anything else you can take it too far. Rigid and single-minded goal setting can actually be limiting and constricting. Too much emphasis on goals can lead to a loss of freedom and feelings of failure.
The world we inhabit is now very complicated. There are too many variables and we cannot predict exactly what will happen. There are many unintended consequences that come along with almost everything we do. There is too much chaos.
Delight in the process
We must be able to enjoy the process, because in fact life is about the process and growth and not about the end-point. When you achieve your goal, when you get to the end-point, you will not be satisfied except for very briefly. It wasn’t the goal that was important, but he journey you took to get there.
For all of these reasons, I think it is important to hold your goals loosely. You need a general direction, but you don’t need to be rigid. Allow for flexibility and discovery along the way. Allow yourself to change your mind as you gain new information. Delight in the process and not in the result.
I visualize my goals in great detail. I think that makes them real. But I change that detail regularly as I go along. If I visualized a particular outcome six months ago and started reaching for it, I almost certainly will not have achieved it exactly. I almost always change it along the way as I learn new things. To me, that is what makes life interesting. I no longer hold my goals with jaw-clenching tightness. This blog is not at all what I imagined it would be when I started it almost six months ago. It has grown into something different. That’s OK.
Don’t allow rigid goal setting to rob you of the joy of living. Work vigorously toward your goals while at the same time being aware of and responsive to opportunities. Allow yourself to change direction with flexibility based upon what is called for in any particular moment. Anat Baniel says that pursuing goals in this way “is a great boost to our sense of power and vitality”. I couldn’t agree more.
Rigidly focusing on a goal with blinders in place will prevent you from being able to respond to your experiences, feeling, and new opportunities. It will make your life a bore and and burden instead of a joy and an experience.
Ways to Hold Your Goals Loosely
Allow for Flexibility
Many discoveries have been made in the pursuit of something else and quite by accident. Allow yourself the flexibility to adjust your goal or even completely change it along the way.
Don’t Try to Control The Outcome
When you try to hard to control the outcome, you are assuming you know something before you have given yourself the chance to experience and learn. This is the best way to guarantee you will get stuck and fail.
Focus On the Process
This goes along with the previous suggestion of not trying too hard to control the outcome. Instead, pay attention to the process. Give yourself the flexibility to choose what to do at any given moment in time.
Going too fast too early will create problems. You might learn limitations that way. Give yourself a chance to learn to grow along the way. Enjoy the journey. If you rush through the journey you might very well miss it. The journey is the point. Slow down and experience it.
Be like a child. Be curious and allow your imagination to roam free. Were you happy as a young child? Probably, because you didn’t pursue goals with rigid blindness. In fact you probably didn’t always know where you were going at all. You just moved and experienced life. You were intensely curious and you let your amazing life unfold in an explosion of exploration and learning. Grab back that feeling of intense curiosity you had as a young child, and let it guide you along the way.
Humans are not robots. You are an amazingly adaptable creature and that adaptability is to a great extent what distinguishes you from other living things. Embrace that nature and allow your life to unfold. Pick a direction and move in that direction but don’t allow a previously chosen rigid path to rob you of your vitality and freedom. To some extent you need to just experience life and make it up as you go along.
When I was younger and travelled on vacation, I planned everything out day by day. I made sure I went to all the best places and did all the best things. I didn’t want to miss out on anything. I sure saw a lot and hit all the high points at my various destinations. However, looking back on it, I’m not sure I really enjoyed those vacations like I could have.
Now I’m just the opposite. I just make it up as I go along. I recently visited the Rocky mountains in Colorado and people kept asking me what I was going to do. I had no idea, I just knew I was going to enjoy myself and I did. I just let the experiences unfold by themselves.
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