Should you chase goals, or just party?
So what is it about the world's obsession with goals, are goals really goals or are they gaols.
Now in old-style English spelling, the difference between a goal and a gaol is just a letter "a". It's only one letter and yet goals and gaols can feel the same.
Goals are useful and we know we need them, but they can really mess with our heads. I'm not interested in whether goals are worthwhile or not but keeping them in perspective.
The thing about goals is that they tend to focus on success. So did you get to the goal? Yes, you did you're a hero, you're on National TV. You won a meddle, got the promotion.
The problem is they focus on the endpoint and a single point of evaluation which is infinitely simpler than reality.
Let me explain with a party analogy.
Parties can teach us a lot about life and work. Let's look at how a party gets constructed.
The idea comes first.
The idea comes first, you think "okay great I'm gonna have a party".
Then it becomes a project. You've got to plan something, so you put together your checklist, go out and do the shopping and you prepare your food. Then people arrive, you socialise, eat and drink, and have a great time.
Time to Party
The party is underway and at the end, you've got a cleanup. That's really no different from any other project plan. It's no different from a career.
If I want to be a champion cyclist, you'll need to train, race, and recover.
It applies equally to an IT Project or construction job. It applies to life itself.
The thing about the party is that it's not a thing where you can plan for the peak moments. Now yes, you'd like the party to have peak moments and you would like many peak moments, but you won't necessarily have them.
The party could be a complete dud.
You would like some peak moments but along the way you're going to also have troughs, You're going to have these in a project, in life and at a party.
The thing about the party is that when you go into it you don't know how it's going to look. It could be a flat line along the bottom of the wave of fun and probably not going to stay at the peak, and it's not going to mid-line. It's going to have waves.
You can't think of a party as being an event which was just the peak moment either. You can't think of it with goals beyond a general goal to have fun.
Allan Watts the famous 1970's English philosopher, likened life to being like a dance, he said you don't have a dance for the sake of the end, you don't have a dance or the sake of the beginning. You have the dance for the dance.
It's the same for a concert or a play or any other activity. You don't go to the concert for the end or the beginning or that one note or guitar solo in the middle. You go for the whole process.
Time to dance
You go to the dance for the dance. You go for a walk for the walk. You don't go for a walk for the endpoint or the beginning.
You go for a jog for the jog.
You have a party for the party.
The party is going to have a life of its own as is your life and career.
Your life is going to have all of this, but with goals, we tend to focus on high points and endpoints. We know achievement is a happy point. We know failure is a sad point. Should we aim for the middle? Should we flatline?
No that would be boring. Having a flatlined life flatline is death.
A life of waves
By virtue of just living, you're in a wave, you're in sound waves, light waves, and absorb all sorts of vibrations. These waves are represented by the activities that we undertake, including our work, including customer service interactions.
A customer will (usually) hang in there with you for the whole process. Although they might have had to wait too long at the beginning or a little bit longer at the cashier or you didn't have the exact product or whatever, they're going to look at the whole experience, with all its waves.
We can only judge by looking back, not while we're in the activity.
The judge's mantle comes down at the end. You think to yourself, oh okay, that was good or bad, but you can't go judging while you're in the activity.
Judging yourself within an activity will drive you crazy, because of the potential alternatives. You could be finding yourself "here" or "here" as opposed to "there" or "there", potentially giving you a false dawn or it will false pessimism.
One point I really want to stress is that this wave has got an interesting character when it comes to life. Lets' again look at it from a party perspective.
You are an attendee of the party, whether you organized it or not. You're going to be a participant in that you're going to be swept up by the wave and you're gonna be dragged down if this thing doesn't work. So you're bobbing along the top of this wave, like a cork in a storm. You've, got actually very little control over that.
However, at the same time (and this is where the cork analogy sinks), you are not only riding the wave but you're also 'the' wave. You're both. You're one of the people in this party AND you're one of the people contributing to whether it's working or not.
You are the wave, and in the wave
At work, you're one of the people contributing to the team and affected by the team. Sometimes you're the victim of it, but you're also part of the problem by making other people victims (or successful).
The big take away I'd like to leave you with here is that you are always the wave and on the wave, whether it's work or life.
Don't judge where you are at a particular point in time because you don't know if it's the top, the bottom, or the direction of movement.
You just can't have perspective when you're in the middle of something. So when you're in the middle of a project you've just got to grind away and do the right things, you've got to do the things that you know you need to do. Whether or not the project is killed is a different decision altogether,
You don't have time for self-judgement. Judgment is the greatest distraction from a great job and a great life. Let it pan, out, you've done your preparation, you've done your planning, you've done all those things, you had a great idea.
Let it pan out. It may not work but may, just thinking about whether you're constantly down in the through is only going to get in your way.