I Thought This Was About Goals
Wait, come back.
It is. We’re talking about goallessness.
Which, yes, technically isn’t even a word. (Until now.) But you know what it means: not setting goals.
But Goals Are Good, Right?
Yes, we have nothing against goals.
Only last week Paul blogged about how breaking a huge, overwhelming goal down into smaller, more achievable goals, helped him run a marathon.
We believe in the value of setting accurate and concrete goals (and designing a process to achieve them). Otherwise we’d all just be sending each other GIFs all day (not that there aren’t any positive benefits to that.)
Goals: we all have them, we all try and define them. We have them at work, at home, for ourselves and for our loved ones.
And we all know people who don’t have them. Or have the wrong goals. Or have the right goals but go about them the wrong way. (All those options just about cover Brexit.)
But what if we actively decided not to have any goals at all?
Just as an experiment.
For example, what do you want to achieve today?
Try not to think about it – that report you haven’t finished yet. Those expenses you have to submit. You were supposed to make an appointment with the dentist last month.
Hard not to think about this stuff, right? But what if, say, you’re writing a bi-weekly blog about not having any goals.
Good Luck With That Fella
Thanks, I think… But, seriously, consider the paradox of trying to write about not having a goal. What if you don’t know what you want to achieve?
You know when sometimes you have a hunch or an itch you can’t scratch…
No, I don’t mean ‘Have I left the gas on?’ or ‘Is Leia really my sister?’
But ‘There’s more to this project’ or ‘I’m missing something important and I don’t know what it is’.
Er, Work…? Goals…?
The point is that goals might not be the best way to move forward.
Harvard Business School professor Max H Bazerman writes about what happens when goal setting goes bad.
He argues that goals are useful in ‘limited domains’. But they can actually hamper productivity.
He says that ‘stretch’ goals – like ‘Let’s blow up the Death Star’ – are useful.
But if you want employees to engage in ‘pro-social’ behaviours – that’s helping each other to you and me – then stretch goals are not as effective as ‘learning or mastery’ goals.
They have been shown to have much more positive effects on performance and internal motivation.
A Good Traveller Has No Fixed Plans, And Is Not Intent On Arriving
Now, Lao Tzu might have been on to something. How many meetings have you had recently where you’ve been told that we’re on a journey? And that it’s not about the destination?
What if you just went along with something for the ride? Take a look at this TED talk.
Inventor, Simone Giertz – the self-styled ‘Queen of Shitty Robots’ – has become an Internet phenomenon by making useless things.
She started building them partly for fun (remember that?) and partly to solve problems.
So she mastered the art of making useless things: a robotic helmet to clean her teeth, a device to help her eat breakfast and a machine for applying her lipstick.
None of these devices work particularly well. But by building things that were useless she also built a following of 1.5 million on YouTube.
A goalless adventure led to an unexpected and rewarding destination.
Likewise, Zen blogger, Leo Babauta argues that it’s not about goals it’s about doing what you’re passionate about.
Further, he argues that it is possible to work without goals at all.
It would seem counterintuitive, counterproductive and counter everything.
Leo proposes four principles:
Love What You Do
Makes sense, doesn’t it? And if you really must do something you don’t want to do, try to find a way to like it.
Helping people is good, right? That’s what we’re all about. Investing is a kind of helping.
Build Relationships and Trust
Start by helping each other. It’s all about building relationships. And being trustworthy is a great way of building relationships.
When you’re curious about other people and life in general, you’re more engaged. And if you’re more engaged you will work better.
So, What Are You Saying?
Whether you’re setting goals in life or setting goals for success (and the two aren’t mutually exclusive):
Use the best of both worlds.
Use goals when you need them, but also allow time to cast yourself adrift.
Use the Force, Luke.