Goals. I define them as obstacles to success and true happiness. Feeling bogged down because yours aren’t clearly established? Or -- gasp -- are you bogged down precisely because you do have them?
I received one article that compared going through life without goals to a bad vacation. The writer set two vacation scenarios. In one, the husband has the route clearly mapped out, the reservations made, and all the details planned. In the other, the couple get in their car with no map, no motel reservations, and no specific plans of what they will do. The article tried to convince me that the couple with plans was going to have a wonderful time and the couple without plans was going to have a lousy time. I don't buy it -- our best trips have been spur of the moment, when we took off with no map and no itinerary.
We've probably all heard that you can't get where you are going if you don't know where you are headed – and goals are supposed to be the map that shows you the way. I disagree.
I didn't always think this way. I learned it through reaching what I was aiming for.
I was an independent rep for a skin care and cosmetic company. The company and our group leader preached goals. We were instructed to visualize them, to mentally see the results we wanted, and to make an actual display of some sort that depicted our them.
I made a rather elaborate bulletin board. It had pictures of the new car I would be given to drive when I'd bought enough product and recruited enough other reps into the company. It had charts of my sales targets, broken down into how much I needed to sell each week. It had statistics of how much my average "per face" sale was to show that if I could just get the skin care products on a certain number of faces, get that number of women to try them, that I'd likely sell my quota and meet my goal. The poster had motivational quotes. It had little reminders. It had a list of positive affirmations. My goal, and what I needed to do to achieve it, was clear.
It worked. I quickly did what I needed to do and received that brand new car to drive.
I'd reached my goal and was finished. I hadn't been teaching skin care because I loved making women look beautiful. I wasn't showing women how to make themselves more attractive with cosmetics because I loved making women feel better about themselves. No, I wasn't doing it for those reasons at all. I was doing it, and doing it well, because I had a goal to reach.
Sadly, it was an empty goal.
A few months later, the car went back, and I went forward to do something else.
What happens when you reach your goals? You are done! Finished. There's nothing more to go after.
Goals are restrictive. They set an end to what you can achieve. They thwart freedom. They prohibit you from doing all that you want to do for yourself and your family. Goals are the brakes that stop you from accomplishing all that you could accomplish because goals are the end.
Fifteen years ago, my husband and I decided it was time for us to stop setting goals for the future and time to start living the present. We decided that we wanted to be happy now, instead of wrapped up in doing something that might make us happy sometime. Instead of planning what we wanted to do, we simply started doing it. Those were the best decisions we have ever made.
I'm not advocating being irresponsible. I'm not suggesting living today with no thought of what the consequences will be tomorrow.
What I am advocating is enjoying the trip of life. Find work that you like to do and that you find satisfying today – not just work that may reward you in the future. Love your kids for what they are today – not just for what they may become years from now. Celebrate personal relationships today – not just at anniversaries.
Use goals if they are a means to what you truly want – if meeting the objective is a step in leading you where you want to go. Goals may be useful if they are part of the journey, but they are self-defeating if they are the destination.