Leo Babauta at Zen Habits makes the case that we should focus on intentions rather than goals to achieve what we want.
“As you might know, I experimented with giving up goals after being very focused on goals for years. It was liberating, and it turns out, you don’t just do nothing if you don’t have a goal. You get up and focus on what you care about. Read more here. Instead, I’ve found it useful to focus less on the destination (goal) and instead focus on what your intention for each activity is. If you’re going to write something … instead of worrying about what the book will be like when you’re done, focus on why you want to write in the first place. If you are doing something out of love or to help others , for example, then you are freed from it needing to turn out a certain way (a goal) and instead can let it turn out however it turns out. I’ve found this way of working and living to be freeing and less prone to anxiety or procrastination.”
It is true that most of the literature is about setting goals and not necessarily about setting intentions. Personally I am still very much into goals. I am aware this approach requires a lot of personal discipline and is sometimes excessively straining. I certainly need to consider setting strong intentions instead!
“Even the most career driven and ambitious among us eventually come to a decision point, do we follow the norm and risk living lives filled with decisions made by others, or do we take responsibility for ourselves, to become fully engaged with the process of defining what matters and focusing on what’s in our control?” writes Valeria Maltoni in her blog.
This powerful question is at the core of our lives. Some of us take this decision early, some late, but we always take it. Most of us star their adult life on the path more or less chosen for them by their family, and then by the organization that has welcomed us, but at some stage we all ask ourselves the question and resolve it. It might be at retirement only, but the question is always there lurking in the dark.
This is life’s key decision point and it is a critical question to consider (and not to escape from). The way to deal with it is to face this question, because escaping from it may lead to depression, sadness and fear. This crisis will happen sooner or later so better anticipate it as much as possible.
Look at the question in the eye: “Do I want to keep following the norm and a life filled with decisions from others, or do I want to choose my own and take responsibility for myself?”. Scary, and necessary.
Benevolence means being well meaning and showing kindness. It is an older word that became a bit disused. The concept however, I believe, is becoming very important in today’s world.
We are always wondering what are the motives behind the actions of people. In particular in the daily office world, this question is always lurking behind in our minds. And this is becoming increasingly so.
However we know that some people, and some actions, are only motivated by goodwill and kindness that does not seek anything specific in return. We struggle sometimes to recognize this fact in particular in today’s fast paced environment full of unknown motives.
Showing and recognizing benevolence is an essential element of goodwill and credibility. It is important sometimes to do some actions without seeking any advantage, just for the pleasure of helping, supporting, creating stuff.
How much benevolence do you demonstrate on a day-to-day basis?
In the Industrial Age, job title was very much one’s social identity, in particular related to the position in pyramidal organization charts. In many countries like France, the studies (university, degree) and grade achievements was also very much one’s identity. It is still the case at various levels.
However, this easy-to-relate identify definition will disappear in the Collaborative Age as the importance of conventional organizations will progressively disappear, and as we will be increasingly on our own without a fixed ‘job’, or at least only with temporary ones.
This situation creates a lot of stress on personal identity. It is thus a high barrier for those that hesitate to jump out of traditional organizations; or, those who get retrenched or lose their job and have to reinvent themselves. It is possibly one of the biggest stressors in society today.
One needs to realize how defining oneself in terms of job title and university degree is limiting. In particular after a few years’ experience, our personal identity is much more complex and full; and it involves both personal and professional elements. We need definitely to find other ways of expressing our complete identity. It could be through our own creations or on social media.
Transforming the way we express our identity is a mandatory skill for the Collaborative Age.
Our society seeks the Flawless Record. Our resumes have to be flawless and have no holes, and in general we are suspicious of people with any hint of controversy. However as Seth Godin reminds us, this is a paradox. Success only comes from creating things that are criticized.
Being criticized means that we try to move things forward. It means we have tried something new, something disruptive. As Seth Godin reminds us “If your goal is to be universally liked and respected and understood, then, it must mean your goal is to not do something that matters.”
I would like to add that it is great to be criticized and controversial as long as there is no integrity issue related to the matter (although sometimes adversaries might appeal to put our integrity, so that it is sometimes difficult to discern).
Flawless is not an objective. Consistent and courageous is. We need to choose – and maybe not make it through the usual filtering criteria of the Industrial Age!
Human behavior doesn’t always conform to what seems sensible to us, and that what seems sensible to us isn’t necessarily valuable in evaluating how a person thinks or acts.”
This makes any kind of judgment on people’s behavior difficult. As explained in the book in certain situations, suspension of judgment is required. That is the case for example during coaching, or during interviews to determine trustworthiness.
“Many years I sought happiness. […] I perceived that if I will do as well as I can the tasks for which life has made me, I shall find fulfillment, and a quiet lane of happiness for many years. Gladly I surrender myself to nature’s imperative of love and parentage, trusting to her ancient wisdom, and knowing that, as Dante learned when he entered Paradise, “La sua volontade è nostra pace — in her will and service is our peace””
Om Swami concludes: “Each one of us has a certain purpose. It can’t be and is not the same for everyone. Sometimes, we keep battling for a different life, hoping that we’ll have a life of our dreams by clearing all the hurdles in our present life.
The truth is, if Nature has given you a certain strength, talent, capability, whether you like it or not, it’ll put it to maximum use. No matter where you go or what you do, it’ll pull you back into your natural play field where you add the greatest value to its functioning and apparatus.”
Thus we’ve been warned and gently guided to find our happiness.
If we try new things and get out of our comfort zone we’ll be confronted by failure more than once. It is tough psychologically and practically to overcome failure. Still we always need to dig further to discover what is worth saving, or what nugget of success lies there in the rubbles.
Scott Adams concludes, “Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value.”. Do you have the discipline to do that?
The main reason according to him is the conservation of personal energy: “Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction”
I find this viewpoint very interesting and challenging. Establishing a system that works consistently and reliably allows to avoid focusing on challenging goals that might never be reached, and allows to focus on a daily routine that will bear fruit. Hence for 2016 I have decided to focus my effort more on setting up a system than setting goals. And you?