I’m normally a big fan of Leo B from Zen Habits. I read his blog faithfully (even though I’m not nearly as healthy in my habits as he is). Normally I find myself in total agreement with the things that he writes about. But when I read his post about living “goal free,” I had one of those “Quick! Shove it under the bed before the kids see it!” moments.
I don’t doubt for one minute that Mr. B can live goal free — but for most of us that’s a’kin to teaching your 6 month old to play soccer. Ya gotta walk before you can run.
The reason we set a big goal is because it gives us direction. Then the little goals or tasks help us get where we want to go. If we live in New York and want to go on a road trip, can we just hop in the car and head off in any direction? Sure we can. But let’s be honest — we still have a goal. It’s to wander around for a few days and have some unplanned adventures. That’s a great, fun goal. Or, on the other hand, if we really want to see Disney World, we probably better drive south. Either way, we have a goal.
And here’s the bigger point. Our biology drives our need for goals. Remember that Lizard Brain that Seth Godin writes about? That’s the oldest part of our brain that is home to the “fight or flight” instinct. And that part of us — a real, physical organ that we all have — is what makes us so afraid of change. And that fear translates into preventing us from reaching our dreams. Ta-Da! Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you… the Dragon of Resistance! If we just pretend that he’s not there, and we don’t set any goals, do you really think he’s just going to open the door to the castle and say “Hey! Welcome! Come right on in!”
I think someone like Leo probably does live without stated or conscious goals. But most of us are learning to walk — to sneak past the Dragon. And the best, proven way to do that is by setting ONE big goal (pay attention, Grasshopper – you have to learn to work on ONE goal before you work on 3), and then breaking it down into itty-bitty pieces. Then when we work on the little things, the Dragon doesn’t get alarmed and we can sneak right past him. And sooner than you know it, you’re sitting on top of your own proverbial pile of gold.
Whadya think? Can you reach your dreams without goals?