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​Goal Setting vs. Intention

Goals imply a specific outcome and the word is loaded with ideas of effort, of life sacrifice, struggle and disappointment. Goals seem - and often are - mercenary. I’d like to wipe the slate clean of everywhere that I have used the word goal and replace it with “intention.”

Goals shrink your life to a very narrow hallway with only one door at the end. Intention leaves the door open to the unlimited. Goals are separated from purpose. Intention is infused with purpose.

Goals are not always healthy, sane or rooted in reality. When people want to hire me to make a specific thing happen with their life – like the woman who wanted to manipulate to get a specific man to start talking to her again - I have to turn them down. Manipulation is not life in my eyes.

It is easy to connect the dots after, not beforehand, to see the milestones in every business and every life. There are objectives and there is intention to guide your energy. While “goals” alone can really close the door to possibility and drain the joy from your life.

An article in Psychology Today shines a light on the failure of traditional goal-setting and the way it can take us out of life:

“In some ways both Santa Clause and The Secret have done us a disservice. Both focused on wishing something would happen and either through the process of writing it down and/or visualization, it is supposed to magically appear. Many management and self-help gurus cite research, reportedly done at Harvard or Yale universities, which describes why only 3% of Harvard MBAs make 10 times as much money as the other 97%–because they write down their goals. The problem with this claim is that no such research study exists.

Max Bazerman, a Harvard Business School professor and co-author of Goals Gone Wild, argues that rather than relying on goals, we should create workplaces and schools that foster interest in and a passion for work.

Moreover, the blind, value-free pursuit of goals without an examination of the consequences of their attainment and the cost of achieving the goals has been questioned by a few management scholars. These scholars argue that the price we pay for overly focusing on goals is a loss of independent thinking and personal initiative. The Ford Pinto, Enron’s climb to success, the rash lending practices of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the excesses of Wall Street traders, and the lack of environmental oversight of Gulf deep water drilling, all reflect the downside of defining success as the mere attainment of goals. Work, particularly knowledge work, requires a certain amount of creativity and judgment. Reducing complex activities to a set of goal numbers can end up rewarding the wrong behaviors.

There is an addiction in our culture to “getting more,” the “going for the goals” hype is disconnected from peoples’ authentic selves, and their values.”

Life isn’t meant to be forced. You can’t push energy exactly where you want it to go, unless you are willing to get pushed back. It is a fundamental law of physics, Newton’s third law of motion to be exact. “When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body.” (Translated: if you push anything, it will push you back.)

Why, then, do we feel we need to push so hard in directions that we do not really belong in order to achieve outcomes we may not really understand or appreciate?

I dropped the goal-setting jargon from my vocabulary when I realized that every single person I admired in every walk of life was driven by purpose and each of them really brought as much of themselves to every one of their endeavors, whether or not there was a specific outcome that could or would be attained. In essence, they all have no real goals, but all have strong intention, purpose and the ability to dig in an actualize things that resonate with their skills, talents and passions. The uber-example: Steve Jobs. In this hyper-surreal commencement speech at Stanford, he sums up the sketch of his enormous life, something he never could have predicted if he were working off a “goal” sheet. Even if you’ve watched it before, you may enjoy it again. I can never get enough:

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

In Your Corner,

Phyllis Miller, Success Coach, CTRTC

Phyllis Miller: Posted on Monday, January 23, 2017 3:03 PM