New Year’s Resolutions for the Goal-Less

Categories: Winnthinks

Every January my social media stream fills up with comment about New Year’s Resolutions and the importance of goal setting for the months ahead. As a Coach I am, of course, a huge fan of goal setting, both in the short term and long term.

But what if you don’t know where you want to go?

Plenty of people don’t. If you are one of the lucky ones with a clear ambition and purpose, you have a definite start and end point. It’s a simple matter then of creating stepping stones – short term goals – to get you from A to B. Far more of us, though, have either a general sense of direction (‘I’d like to do something in the arts’, ‘working with animals’, ‘travel’, ‘making a difference’…) or even just some very strong views about where we DON’T want to wind up.

Or, (and here’s a radical thought), we actually rather like things as they are.

So, for the particular benefit of the Goal-Less (and anyone else with an open mind), allow me to offer a suggestion about your plans for 2014.

Here is a small extract from the now much celebrated Occasional Address made by comedian and musician Tim Minchin in September 2013 to graduating students at his old university:

“I never really had one of these big dreams. And so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery. Which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams: If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye.”

Now, I am all for goal setting and future planning, but I’m also a fan of Tim Minchin, and what he says is well worth a second look (with the obligatory pinch of salt to hand, of course).

Life, love and success (however you define those things) don’t lay themselves in front of you and me in nice, neat lines, however much we may plot and prepare. Stuff happens. We change. Other people change. Governments, technology, trends and beliefs change. Our circumstances are constantly in flux, and there’s often not a great deal we can do about that.

But what we can do, as Tim says, is keep looking out for “the shiny thing out the corner of (our) eye”. This is what opportunities are made of, and where our curiosity gets the chance to kick in and send us somewhere entirely more exhilarating, unexpected and potentially perfect. Of course, risk taking can also take you somewhere that turns out to be scary, expensive or even more tedious than where you were – but the brilliant thing is, you will have learned something of value on the way. You also have a whole new starting point to spring forward from next time.

So, however clear or woolly your destination may be, and whether you’ve set yourself goals and resolutions or not, here are three things to bear in mind for 2014:

  • 1) Keep doing what you’re currently doing to the best of your abilities, and pull out what you can from the experience until you’re ready to move on. The experiences you’re not enjoying are often the ones you learn the most from.
  • 2) Test the foreign waters occasionally. Scare yourself once in a while. A little spontaneity can be a wonderful thing. Be careful you are not so single minded that you start to become narrow minded.
  • 3) Stay aware of what’s in your peripheral vision. That shiny thing might just turn out to be the Big Picture you’ve been waiting for.

I wish you good health, prosperity and happiness, wherever your 2014 takes you.