Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why I Hate Goal Writing

I hate goals.

There I said it. January is almost over and the airwaves, newspapers, magazines and blogs have been flooded with  conversation about setting this goal or that goal.  Every time I hear the word I cringe. It's not that I don't like or believe in the practice of getting clear on what you want to create and setting time frames. I do. I advocate it. I've written about it many times. It's the word goal I detest. Which is why I avoid it.

I hear goal and I think of a football field or a soccer game in which all sights are set on one ball making it across a goal post. At any and all costs. With a clock ticking. It's a win or lose proposition. You either get there or you don't, in a specified period of time. And if you don't, you've suffered defeat.

While that may work this Sunday when the Giants play the 49ers, it does not sound very appealing when planning what you want to accomplish or what you want to change in your life. In fact I think it sets most of us up for failure. Life, while it may be a game of sorts, is not as clear cut in rules as a NFC playoff  game. Things happen along the way. Often you get to where you want to go by veering outside of the safety zone.  And trust me, if you think there is only one way or one set of rules to get you to your heart's desire, chances are you won't.

I'm not sure why the word goal is so overused but I suspect it has everything to do with a business model steeped in the patriarchy. Until the last few decades it was run by and for men. And guys like to talk about sports. Endlessly. And in great detail.  They are comfortable with the word goal. If I were coaching a man and asked him to write his Top Ten Desire List for me in all likelihood his thought process would shoot right to the bedroom which would take him off focus. Men don't create well when they are off focus.

As a woman the word goal just doesn't work for me. My preference when planning what I want to create in my life is to use the words desire and intention. Call it semantics, but those words conjure up a space in which I can envision and set the steps I will need to take to manifest what I want.

For example I have two lists I keep side by side for 2012. One is my Top Ten Desires and the other is my 101 Intentions. Don't ask me why 101. It is a number that just sounded right to me last year and I am sticking with it in the new year.

The Top Ten Desire list combines aspects of my personal and professional life, because really, how do we draw the line between the two anymore?  This list forces me to really think and get creative about what I would like to manifest in the coming year, with no restrictions applied and without a timeline. And with the belief that all the stars will align so it is all indeed possible.

The 101 Intentions List  is where I get more specific. This includes my intention to take specific steps towards those desires. It might even include a timeline or time frame within which I want to do this.

For instance on the Top Ten list one of those items is publishing my second novel. On my intention list I am more specific. I intend to make this happen by summer.  Another item on my intention list is to have it in my editor's hands by mid- January. I'm ahead of schedule on that one. Based on my conversation with her last week, she will have her critique back to me in 8, maybe 10 weeks. Which can keep me right on schedule. But if it is 10 weeks and needs a lot of work, I may or may not be able to have it up for sale by July 4. 

By using the word intention I have allowed myself flexibility, opened a space that will still create what I want, but will not set me back with disappointment and feelings of failure if the dates don't match. Which I have found is what happens for most of us. If we don't get that ball across the end zone in the specified amount of time, playing by someone else's rules, we deem ourselves a loser. On the football field it makes sense. But in life and in business, especially entrepreneurial business, I think not.

Intentions are not hard and fast like goals. But they still work toward a desired outcome. Usually more pleasurably and with less made up stress to beat the clock.

Try it. If you've put off writing your goals this year and you haven't been able to figure out what is stopping you, get out a fresh piece of paper, make a cup of tea, find a quiet space and try calling them desires. And then follow up with a list of intentions that are more specific. Then let me know what happens. And save the goals for Sunday's game.


Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living said...

This makes a lot of sense to me. In fact Leo Babauta, (an influential blogger) spoke at a convention I attended for non-conformists about no longer setting goals in his life. I also read your recent article on Jane Friedman's blog about being impatient and making things happen. This fits with my theme: Gutsy Living: Life is too short to play it safe. Plus I grew up in Paris, where impatience rules. I'm going to follow your intentions idea, plus I was recently invited to meet a group of women who are discussing their intentions for 2012, so this is perfect.

Unknown said...

I love your theme! And I is too short to play it safe!

An Authentic Life said...

Thank goodness you said it - cuz I was thinkin' the same thing recently!

Liane said...

I feel the way you describe it about the word "resolutions". Other than that I'm not bothered so much what it is called but I often find myself calling it "vision". Whatever you call it, I agree - it is important to have it. Writing it down and displaying it where I can see it often definitely helps me too.