It is fitting that the first month of the year is named after Janus, the god of transitions and beginnings. Janus is often represented with two faces: one facing to the left, looking back on the past, and one facing right, looking to the future. As a new year begins, most people reflect on the previous year and set goals for the new one.
There seems to be an awful lot of time spent on setting goals that aren’t kept. If you’re one of the 82% of people who don’t set or keep their annual resolutions, how about employing a novel approach to setting goals this year: don’t do it!
In 2006 I met a consultant who shocked my socks off with his philosophy of goal-free living. Stephen Shapiro, whose book, Goal-Free Living, was published that year, said he had achieved more in his life by living without goals than when he was obsessed with setting goals.
I nearly hyperventilated at the thought of a life without goals. After all, how would you know if you accomplished anything? I was the aunt in the stands keeping score while five-year olds played basketball without a scoreboard. The thought that you wouldn’t keep score in a game, much less in life, was stunning to me and I was skeptical of Stephen.
As Stephen explained his philosophy further, and I read his book, goal-free living made sense. He told me about his constant struggle to achieve and how it distracted him from his daily life. Stephen referred to it as constantly being on a treadmill. After a while, you’d get bored on a treadmill and not work hard enough to get anything out of it. So, he stays off the treadmill of goal setting by using the following eight tips (copied from the book):
- Use a compass, not a map—have a sense of direction, and then let yourself wander and try new things on the way to fulfilling your aspirations
- Trust that you are never lost—every seemingly wrong turn is an opportunity to learn and experience new things
- Remember that opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly—while blindly pursuing our goals, we often miss unexpected and wonderful possibilities
- Want what you have—measure your life by your own yardstick and appreciate who you are, what you do, and what you have . . . now
- Seek out adventure—treat your life like the one-time-only journey it is and revel in new and different experiences
- Become a people magnet—constantly seek, build, and nurture relationships with new people so that you always have the support and camaraderie of others
- Embrace your limits—transform your inadequacies and boundaries into unique qualities you can use to your advantage
- Remain detached—focus on the present, act with a commitment to the future, and avoid worrying about how things will turn out
Link to Stephen Shapiro’s book on amazon:
Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW!