A few weeks back, I was writing a post
in reply to Leo’s discussion of No Goals.
I found myself referencing many versions of the Tao Te Ching
to show missing pieces that weren’t in his discussion.
As I reflected on the essential tenets of the Tao,
I saw that what little I had to say needed no proving.
Leo’s way works for him, but it does not work for many,
although many can learn from what works for him.
Besides, though phronesis is captured in books
It lives and is cultivated in the world.
Words point to the truth,
Living instantiates it. (Click to tweet – thanks!)
There is nothing wrong with plans or goals.
Sages have always had both and always will.
We find trouble when we’re attached to specific outcomes
and attempt to dominate the world’s unfolding.
Tread carefully when walking across thin ice.
Walk confidently when on firm ground.
Breathe in clean air and bask in the warm sun.
Seek shelter and stay dry when it rains.
Each situation has its own appropriate response.
To say one for all or all for one
Is like telling babies to eat hard food
And adults to stick to applesauce.
Since it may be lost in expression, I want to be clear that I respect, appreciate, and support Leo and his great work. This is more of a “Yes AND” rather than an “either/or” response.
Hello! He ends with the quote, “”˜A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’ ~Lao Tzu. But even the good traveller chose not to be a homebody. And to not be intent on arriving means that you are intent on traveling.
@ThingsBright Great point, Elizabeth.
@CharlieGilkey ~ That was an amazing post on goals / no goals.
Love what you’ve written here, Charlie. I love the power of setting ourselves goals, not just because of how clarifying the process of setting ourselves a goal can be, but also because setting ourselves a goal means giving ourselves the permission to pursue that goal and committing ourselves to give it our all.
I so agree with “we find trouble when we’re attached to specific outcomes”. That’s so true for so many things in our lives (whenever we want people or things to behave in a specific way and then get mad, sad, frustrated, … when they don’t) and also for goals and especially for the plans we come up with. Holding these plans loosely, just investing in the next action each time (without investing in the outcome), seeing where that action brought us and then (re)defining our next action, that’s what’s so important.
@AnMarieBe Well said, very well said. I don’t want to add or detract from your thoughts, because reading them was like experiencing the feel of a rose – seriously. I’ll gladly follow your writings if you have a blog, so please let me know.
@AnMarieBe In other places, I’ve said that “planning is an awareness generating process that enables effective action.” (I may need to make that more public.) I add this because I so understand where you’re coming from.
Great post. Now what I really want is the Tao Te Ching, Annotated by Charlie Gilkey. How soon can I get my hands on that one? Gonna hold a spot on my bookshelf!
@worldmegan When I originally read this, I was like, “oh, but I don’t understand it enough.” Then I just answered a question about the Tao Te Ching via email without thinking about whether I understood it enough. Weird how that works.
As far as when, well, it could be awhile. Dissertations, books, blogs, articles, and other projects don’t get themselves done. 🙂
For me, I’ve gotta make sure I have goals. Otherwise, I get lazy and drift. I think what keeps some new entrepreneurs and businesspeople from realizing achievements is that they believe that a goal is like glue – it sticks. But outcomes are fluid. Commitment and consistency are elements that see any project/book/album/website/etc through, and there’s a gradient dependent on individual needs and personalities for what awakens that commitment within each individual.
GREAT post Charlie! Amanda
@AmandaMachina Thanks, Amanda. As with all things, there needs to be some balance. I’ve also worked with people who plan everything but don’t actually do anything. Unless you work in a planning cell, planning is the work, it’s the way you figure out what work needs to be done.
And you’re totally right about consistency and commitment.
Let me start by saying there is a strong argument for setting goals and living a structured life. This stand, by no means, is meant for everyone. To clarify, this was well said by Sir Ken Robinson, on a TED presentation on creativity and intelligence; “there are 3 kinds of people in the world… those who can add and those that cannot.”
Additionally, I’ve recently learned that there are millions of people in the US alone who are either being called stupid at an early age, or are so easily distracted that it takes a significant effort to even develop a plan. So, as long as we’re being esoteric, let’s call this group #3.
I took the time to read both blogs before commenting, but actually had enough when finishing the first. No bad, mind you, not by a long shot. Just concerned for those of whom I just mentioned, who are extremely creative, and have talents, but organizing and goals are not their forte.
The concern is well founded, because I am one of these people, and almost instandly became alarmed at the messages being propagated, and wondering how this bait could easily be swallowed by a #3.
About 5 years ago I did just that after hearing a brilliant man, Jason Fried (of 37 Signals fame), talk on what sounded like a reasonable argument for not having goals. I quickly took it down; hook , line, and sinker.
I’ll finish by attribution a major revelation or gift I received from Dr. Richard Barkley who is an expert on ADHD and similar disabilities (he has a number of videos on YT). The problem I have with these posts are their potential negative affects on people who would do as I did, but have a very strong argument the idea of placing a disclaimer at the top of the article (not realistic – I know), for those who rationalize this as a valid solution to their lifelong struggle – “they had it wrong all the time… see, I don’t have to have goals or plan!”.
I do respect and admire the people, like Charlie and Leo, who are gifted in a much different way, and are willing to share their valuable insights. Having been down this path, I’ve come to internalize a saying I read that said “no matter how far you have traveled down a path, if it’s the wrong one, turn around.
a few mistakes, clicked post too soon… oops.
@dustiarab Of course the goals aren’t the goal (wow, that sounds weird) – it’s the focused action. 🙂 Anything that gets you there….
@minimalblogger It’s true. I just never really got the whole “no goals” thing. Not my thing.
@dustiarab Yeah, I can’t see you without a plan. A very, very organized plan. 🙂
Alice Hive says
Goal setting works quite well for me. I think that’s because they help me focus on a specific outcome that I want to create. When I don’t have goals I usually start a lot of things but never finish or publish anything (because it’s easier just to start something new).
I think what’s important, though, is to not forget the moment and that ACTUALLY the way is the goal.
@Alice Hive Yep. It’s great to know where you’re going when you start out, even if where you end up is somewhere completely different. (It’s that way more often than not.)
Alice Hive says
@charliegilkey@Alice Hive ” (It’s that way more often than not.)” Well, with some goals maybe. But with others it’s pretty clear: When my goal is to write and publish an ebook about X, I will end up having written and published an ebook about X. It might look different than I thought but that’s what’s exciting.
You highlighed an important point about goals Charlie – not becoming too attached to the outcomes. This way one maintains the ability to stay motivated to keep going if things don’t work out right away, and be flexible enough to try out other ways.
Fantastic post! And, I agree – what works for some may not work for others. It’s part of the joy of being an individual! For me, it’s important to have a PLAN. I don’t necessarily have goals, but I absolutely have a roadmap that helps me get where I believe I want to go.
For example, in my work, the outcomes are heavily influenced by outside forces, so I don’t generally control the end product, though I am responsible for delivering it. Therefore, I choose to focus more on how we get there than what “there” is. This allows me to continue forward momentum even as people are changing their minds about what the finished product is.