Stop! Before you sit down to write out any more personal goals for five years or ten, there’s a new theory on the horizon that may cause you to rethink that.
Having goals is not all it’s cracked up to be, according to Stephen Shapiro, author of the new book “Goal-Free Living,” just in time to save you from all that head and heart-searching.
Shapiro believes we would all be happier if we threw away those “where I want to be in five year” lists along with our “to do” lists and just enjoy life as it comes at us. It’s a novel concept, one that won’t be easily assimilated into our “eye on the ball” culture. In fact, it could cause a revolution.
For me, it seems that when I’ve jotted down goals, I’ve felt intimidated and frustrated. How do you go about wining an Academy Award anyway? Or claiming the $340 million lottery prize? Or moving to a private island in the Caribbean? It’s not easy to back up from our goals and begin to consider first steps to take to make them come true, I can tell you that.
According to a recent article by Dawn Raffel in “Oprah” magazine, Shapiro was a motivational speaker until the day he had his epiphany. As he conducted research for his new book, he discovered that “the most fulfilled people were also the most spontaneous and the least goal-oriented.” Yikes! How could that be?
Easy, his subjects told him. Instead of heading directly towards a goal, they had taken the road less traveled and had wound up finding happiness along the way.
Shapiro’s advice is to check out “all the back roads and detours” we encounter instead of staying the course. It wouldn’t work for an airplane carrier but for humans, it’s just the ticket. “Goal-free living isn’t about being aimless….” Shapiro says. “It’s about being passion-driven in the moment, while knowing you can change course.” So if you always meant to own a restaurant, you may instead end up writing cookbooks or working in someone else’s café. You are still involved in the field you love, just not in the way you planned.
The question arises -- and I’m sure it has for you, too -- whether we can be as accomplished in our lives if we live without setting goals. I suppose we will have to wait to read Shapiro’s book to find out if that is the case.
Spontaneity. Try it sometime. It’s a good goal.
By Teresa K. Flatley