I love black. It’s such a versatile colour and it looks good on me. It’s too bad I have a white dog that sheds all year like a sheep in shearing season. But, that is not important right now, we are talking about my current lack of goals in life.
It has been confirmed by the grandfather of coaching, Thomas J. Leonard, No Goals is the way forward. Recently I was re-reading his outstanding book The Portable Coach, and I noticed something I hadn’t seen the first time I read it three years ago. He is a firm believer in the concept that goal setting is a dead end.
It’s interesting to read different perspectives on the subject, another person’s words can easily sum up something I feel but can’t quite express. Near the beginning of the book he reminds his readers to “Unhook Yourself from the Future” and one of the ways to accomplish this is to “Stop Planning”. He states:
…”it’s tempting to think that fully laid-out plans and perfectly identified goals are the right thing to do. In fact, they may simply be a mind exercise to reduce risk and fear.”
Well, I am certainly guilty of leaning on planning to avoid those two things. I’m a little nail he hit right on the head. He continues:
“Rapid assimilation of new ideas, not tenacious loyalty to old plans, is what makes the future arrive magnificently. Far better to become an in-the-moment learner than an expert planner.”
Damn, I was on my way to becoming an expert planner. All that time, all that paper and ink, wasted on sketching out things that were never to be. Life always got in the way of my plans and it pissed me off every time it happened. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve given it up. Not for lent but just because it didn’t work. If it works for you, great! Keep plugging away at it (what a strange phrase that is). But if your life is really working, why are you reading this?
In what seems like an unconnected topic Leonard believes that we limit our creativity when we make promises. And isn’t a goal really a promise to yourself? The thing with goals is they tend to be inflexible. When an interesting opportunity comes along it’s hard to veer off the predetermined path to take advantage of it. Or, we might even see opportunities as distractions instead of what they really are – a new path to the success or fulfillment we seek. Leonard basically states this on page 144:
… “[Goals] are expensive for several reasons.
One, you are focusing on the future, which limits your connection to the people and opportunities around you in the present.
Two, you are measuring your progress against an external reference. This takes you outside yourself and makes your own fulfillment subject to the measures of others.
Three, goals are usually based on unfulfilled wants or needs, which themselves often give you ideas for silly goals. That’s why so many folks have a hard time identifying goals that are consistently meaningful.”
I’ve set a ridiculous number of silly goals myself so I can attest to that. It also just occurred to me now that goal setting and comparing myself to others is intricately linked but that is a whole other blog post.
Mr. Leonard appears to be way ahead of his time, or at least way ahead of my time. I was playing in a sandbox somewhere while he was being interviewed on the radio in 1989 and instinctively said to the reporter,
“I feel goals are overrated and unnecessary.”
He actually felt, at the time, that goals were quite important and was even promoting a course that involved a lot of goal setting. For some reason, unknown to him at the time, this little slip, for which the reporter berated him, lead Leonard to think more about the concept of goals and what the alternatives might be. It completely opened up the future of his work even though his on-air gaffe was rather embarrassing.
So here you have it, words from someone much smarter than me that giving up this goal-setting nonsense might actually be good for you. It’s only been one month but so far it’s been good for me. I will keep you posted.