The Case Against Goals – Part 3

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The Case Against Goals

Why hasn’t anyone come out with a book that makes the definitive case against goals?

Perhaps part of the answer to that question is found in the comments

written by goal-setting proponents online. Anywhere that an article is written in a blog that identifies how and why goals tend to fail us, you’ll see a lively debate in the string of comments submitted by readers (comments that appear in the blog following the article).

See for yourself the level of pro-goal passion shown in the written remarks of supporters of goal-setting. The following are a few word-for-word submissions that respond to an “anti-goal” article I found online:

  • “Talk about dissecting an apple to analyze an orange!!”
  • “It’s like the saying ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ Goals don’t damage organizations, people damage organizations.”
  • “This is a ridiculous article… Without a goal, you’ll never know if you go there… Goals point us in a direction… I could go on and on …”

As I stated in a previous post, Stephen Shapiro wrote a marvelous book called Goal-Free Living, which, by that title, would suggest that there is, in fact, a book that promotes the idea of ridding our society of goals.

Well, not necessarily so. Shapiro has said that “goals are fine. But it is the obsession with goals that can ruin one’s happiness… and reduce effectiveness.” And that tends to be where most of the goal detractors are as well. Goals are fine. Just be aware of the countless potential pitfalls that accompany goal setting done wrong.

I see it differently. I am here to stand up and say, without equivocation, that goals are not the integral ingredient to success and achievement we’ve been taught to believe…. and I am not pursuaded that they’re fine. I am of the firm conviction that successful goal-oriented people succeed in spite of, not because of, their goal-setting ways and in future posts I will explain why.
So then why do I say that Stephen Shapiro’s book, Goal-Free Living, is marvelous even though he’s still “okay” with goals? I believe it’s marvelous because, when it comes to how we view goals and goal-setting, out-of-the-box thinking about how to create a very satisfying life without putting goals and goal-setting in the center of the strategy, is a great start. And that’s what Goal-Free Living does marvelously. When Shapiro says that goals are fine, he isn’t saying he’s pro-goals.
As such, I heartily recommend his book as essential reading for anyone who is ready to reach for a more happy, fulfilling life.
With Stephen’s permission, here’s an extended quote from his website, Stephen Shapiro’s 24/7 Innovation, about the book, Goal-Free Living:

This amazing book shares the personal discovery of consultant Stephen Shapiro, for whom professional success was often achieved – yet personal satisfaction remained elusive. He wanted to escape the treadmill of chasing his goals, and to find a way to make his life truly rewarding. So over ninety days, he drove 12,000 miles and interviewed 150 extraordinary people from all walks of life to learn how they lived fulfilling, happy lives. Along the way, he discovered the eight secrets to living life free from the constant pressure of goals:

Stephen Shapiro
  • Use a compass, not a map
  • Trust that you are never lost
  • Remember that opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly
  • Want what you have
  • Seek out adventure
  • Become a people magnet
  • Embrace your limits
  • Remain detached

Goal-Free Living offers practical guidance on putting these valuable lessons to work in your own life every day. Take them to heart and you’ll be free of the tyranny of goals-and experience a life truly worth living.

I heartily agree with all that Mr. Shapiro is convincingly conveying to Goal-Free Living readers. Now, I’d like to take the folks who have that same mindset a little further down the path toward total personal satisfaction. I’d like to focus on an assumption that, for too many people, stands as one big roadblock; an assumption that, ironically, Goal-Free Living does not seriously address. That is the notion that goals are a good thing.

In The Case Against Goals series…

  • We will examine the standard reasons why pro-goal people are so in favor of goals and goal-setting
  • Next, we look at the top five pitfalls of goals.
  • And finally, we’ll consider an alternative that, if widely accepted, will represent a quantum leap forward in our heretofore limited way of thinking about how to turn hopes and dreams into a steady stream of accomplishments

This officially ends the introduction to The Case Against Goals series.

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