I have often written about goal setting and the importance of having clearly defined objectives.
My friend and blogging mentor, Leo Babauta has recently written about an alternate approach – he talks about being open to what emerges and going for simplicity.
His article really resonated with me as most of my life, my approach has been to set goals and to go all out gung-ho to achieve them.
Leo agrees that goal setting does work when one gets clarity, visualises their goal, has determination to achieve it and takes small, focussed, consistent actions to get there.
However, this is not the only way – he offers an alternate way and explains how one goes about this route.
One of the key things is to not get hung up on the outcome and instead focussing on the bigger picture and enjoying the journey of getting your goal.
For example, one of my life long ambitions was to run in the London marathon. Of course I had no chance or desire of ever winning the marathon as that would have needed a whole new set of actions and a total commitment to running a long time ago in my younger days.
This year in April I did finally take part in the London marathon and though I walked the whole way it was an amazing day and one I shall never forget. I achieved a life long goal to take part in the marathon, even though I walked the whole way rather than running.
Some friends asked me my marathon completion time and where I finished amongst the runners. Well, I tell them that it took me only 7 hours and 25 minutes and I finished ahead of 168 participants. But just over 35, 000 people finished ahead of me!
What I really enjoyed during the marathon was being able to chat to people whilst they donated money into the collection bucket I was carrying. It made my day that much more special.
The point is that just by taking part I had achieved my goal. Next time around, I might aim to finish in under 7 hours but maybe it would not be so much fun!
So we must enjoy the journey, no matter what it is – whether it is a stroll through the park or something we are striving for in life. Simply be more present.
Just remember how often we all miss out on life by being tunnel visioned. From now onwards, slow down and literally smell the flowers.
Leo talks about how he has no specific plans for his blog Zen Habits over the next year or two. He just wants to keep enjoying his blogging, doing the best he can and seeing what arises.
I really like this approach as when I practice the same approach, I feel huge relief! Suddenly there is no more pressure and the goal becomes lighter and seemingly easier to achieve.
For example, I have had this goal to make my blog massive with 1,000s of subscribers. But I have now let go of that objective and am open to seeing what manifests over the coming months.
In that time, I shall now instead put my energy towards writing useful content about making it happen in your life and the world in general and enjoying the process.
It is all about having no attachment to an outcome and being open to whatever happens. Of course you still continue to do your best. But give up forcing outcomes and let go of attachments.
Leo also talks about being in the flow and accepting whatever manifests. I guess the trick is to learn any lessons along the way so that in future you can do things differently if and as necessary.
Keeping things simple and enjoyable is a must. As Leo says, forego the need to define outcomes and focus on enjoying the journey. Cut down or even cut out on the planning – after all does any of us ever have any idea how things will turn out anyway?!
Give up wanting to be in control! Are we ever really in control of our life anyway?! How much better to just let go and being open to what life shows up.
To summarise, we can only ever do our best. We can have an idea initially about where we want to go and in which direction, enjoy the journey, have no attachment, let go of our need to be in control, be flexible and be open to new experiences and pleasant surprises. And of course my favourite ritual – celebrate when you get there, whatever “there” is for you.
Better still, forget about getting there and just celebrate along the way. Taking it even further celebrate each day of your life and make everything you do a source of joy. Otherwise why else would you do it?
Joy is not the destination, it is the journey.
Focus on the contribution you are making to the world. Then the journey and the end goal will surely take care of itself.
Good luck with your goals and your journey – just remember to jump for joy along the way:-)
Let me tell you the perfection of this article. I have been continually attaching to the outcomes. I felt certain I had let go and was going with the flow, however after I read this…I asked myself are your actions those of a person willing to let go and enjoy the journey?
Hmm…control…one of those hard ones to give up! Also, thank you for the Marathon story!! I have always wanted to participate, but the idea of running, eeessh! Walking..I like it! Maybe I will walk one with you! 🙂
Light and Love my new friend! 🙂
Thanks Brandee for your kind words – it really is all about letting go. And yet that can be so hard to do!
Yes, lets walk a marathon together one day:-)
You’ve outdone yourself my friend!
I loved this blog and it totally resonated with me.
The only thing i would add to it is having the true belief that your goals will happen in the perfect time. wonderful thanks!
love and hugs,
Thanks for the reminder that to much planning can be as much of an obstacle as too little. I’m trying to organise my wedding and need a new way…
Also thought I’d offer my ‘middle way’ between goal-setting and goalless movement: setting an intention.
For me, this means staying clear about in which direction I want to be moving, but then allowing that to happen more freely – maybe in a more ‘zen’ way – than I would if I had set a goal in a normal ‘life coaching’ way.
Somehow, just knowing where I want to be means that although my movements feel random at the time and buffeted by circumstance, I seem to end up in my rightful place.
Don’t ask me how this works, just try it if you’re curious 🙂
NB The trick is to keep checking the intention you set yesterday is really what you want to be heading towards today.
Greetings Arvind from sunny Spain after 3 days of Indian monsoons! It was on the national news – simply unbelievable.
To come back to your article, yes Mr. Roy is one in a million people. It is so difficult to find such dedication and commitment in people these days. I also believe from experience that long term planning doesn’t always work. It is good to be spontaneous at times.
Right now my thoughts and prayers are with all those people in Indonesia, the Philippines, Saomi island, who have lost their loved ones and their homes. We should never ever take things or people for granted. We need to often stop and smell the flowers as you would say.
A warm sunny hug from Spain,
Thanks Anne for your kind thoughts from Spain.
Please continue to be spontaneous and smell the flowers in Spain despite the rain.
Excellent article. I too set goals and by setting a goal I am inspired to take action. Setting goal makes me committed to taking consistent action. However I don’t beat myself up, if I don’t reach them. Instead, I commit to enjoying the process, knowing that things change during the course of pursuing my goal. Yes, being unattached to an outcome and enjoying the process will definitely keep us motivated.
Thanks Lalitha for sharing your experience of goald setting and goal getting.
As you know it is often not about getting the goal but what you become as a result – the journey more important than the destination.
So continue to enjoy the process:-)