A Grim Story About Goals

April 20, 2005

A friend wrote me today with an excerpt from the book Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho. The main character is a prostitute who makes this observation:

“Of course, everyone spoke ill of her profession, but, basically, it was all a question of selling her time, like everyone else. Doing things she didn’t want to do, like everyone else. Putting up with horrible people, like everyone else. Handing over her precious body and her precious soul in the name of a future that never arrived, like everyone else. Saying that she still didn’t have enough, like everyone else. Waiting just a bit longer, like everyone else. Waiting so that she could earn just a little bit more, postponing the realization of her dreams; she was too busy right now, she had great opportunities ahead of her, loyal clients who were waiting for her. . .”

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Give Up Goals and Start Learning

April 18, 2005

This past weekend I was an attendee in a workshop — a workshop on “how to design experiential workshops”. The first evening we did some very unusual things such as dancing, chanting, and meditating. I struggled to see how these “experiences” had anything to do with designing a workshop. The next morning was more of the same. I found myself become more frustrated. I was getting quite stressed. I reached the point where I debated leaving the class. Why waste my time on something that was not helping me achieve my goal? And that’s when it dawned on me. I was treating the workshop like a goal. I was there for a specific reason. And because of that I became so myopically focused that I was not present and was missing so many other learning opportunities.

When I decided to give up the goal of “learning how to design experiential workshops,” I found myself enjoying the class, learning many other (and important) things, and (ironically) learning more about experiential workshops. In the end it was a truly wonderful weekend. I met incredible people, had amazing conversations, and I did learn quite a bit about designing experiential workshops. I learned in a way which was different than I had expected. And my insights often happened outside of the class. So sometimes, even the smallest goals can be detrimental to our happiness and success.

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Aspirations and Goals

April 13, 2005

In addition to goals, there are aspirations. Many people view these as being the same or similar, but they quite different. The origin of the word “goal” comes from the Old English word gal which means obstacle or boundary, and is related to the world gælan which is “to hinder.” Goals then, by definition, can inhibit. And we typically use goals as a way of overcoming these barriers. Think about sports, such as American football. You push hard and struggle to move the ball past 400 pound linebackers with the ultimate objective to move past the goal line; your destination.

Conversely, look up “aspiration” and you will find that its origins are similar to the words “spirit” and “inspire”. They are all derived at some level from the Latin word aspirare which means “to breathe upon.” It is believed that the connotation is “to breath life into” or “panting with desire.” Quite simply put, goals are logical and calculated. Aspirations are emotional and inspirational.

So there is a difference between goals and aspirations. Goals are about typically about convergence, narrowing, and focusing in on an outcome. Therefore they can limit and create a myopic view of the world. On the other hand, aspirations are expansive. They create new possibilities. There are many paths and options for you. And you have a wide peripheral vision, sensing new opportunities as they arise.

If you have goals and they feel freeing, expansive and full of possibility and passion, then that is great. Let’s not get caught up in semantics. Goals are only bad when you relate to them in an unhealthy way. Being goal-free mean being free from the burden of goals.

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Determination

April 11, 2005

I attended a conference this weekend. One of the presenters was a top motivational speaker. Her presentation was mainly about how to set and achieve goals. And although I am goal-free, there were several things she said that resonated with me. She talked about how many times we get stuck where we are only because we believe that we don’t have the skills and experiences to achieve more. These limiting beliefs keep us playing small. She also gave many great examples of how things materialized in her life in ways in which she never planned. This is a good goal-free concept. By stating an intention, things seem to manifest themselves in unpredictable and effortless ways.

However, there was one part of her presentation that struck a nerve with me. She showed a picture of an athlete running hard during a competition. She asked the audience, “What is the expression on her face?” Everyone answered, “Determination.” The speaker continued, “Yes, determination. This is a picture of my grand daughter. She is very determined. And she is never satisfied.” Although most of the audience heard this as a good thing, it made me laugh. Never satisfied? Is that the way you want to live your life? Never being satisfied?

Being goal-free starts with “wanting what you have.” If you are never satisfied with your life now you will always want more. This creates a longing that can never be satisfied. If you can truly appreciate everything that you have in your life now, then you don’t “need” to get more; it’s just icing on the cake. I choose to be “always satisfied.”

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Marrying Yourself

April 1, 2005

I had an interesting conversation with a woman this morning. She said that she “married” herself a few years ago. The purpose is to continually remind her of her commitment to doing for herself what she would do for a spouse. Love, time, and respect. Only after having this type of relationship with herself could she begin to have a similar relationship with a man.

Over three years ago she bought herself a “wedding band”. She wears the ring on her left ring finger, the one traditionally saved for wedding bands and engagement rings. Her ring is silver with a huge blue stone, and it is a great visual reminder of what she’s doing. “It’s just so bold and blue, and a huge stone. It’s something different than I would normally get. I love it.” And from time to time she will buy some wine and toast vows to herself. “For better or worse to unconditionally love myself”.

After she started doing this, she discovered that Queen Latifah has done something similar. And this is an interesting concept for those who want to live goal-free. One of the secrets of Goal-Free Living is to “Want What You Have.” Too often the reason we have goals is that we feel something is missing and therefore we strive for more. But if we take the time to appreciate what we already have, the stranglehold of goals begins to loosen. When you take stock of the great things already in your life, your longing for more subsides. So take a moment to take stock of what you already have. And take time to appreciate yourself. Treat yourself with the dignity and respect you so deserve.

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