I’ve given up on resolutions and goals. I’ve been inspired in part by Leo Babauta’s writing in Zen Habits. He’s taken up living a goal free life and he’s prospering.
Goals Don’t Work
Goal setting has never worked for me. And apparently it doesn’t work that well for others. A recent study shows that focusing on our goals has a negative downside. Such a focus diminishes our enjoyment of the activities required to achieve our goal. As a result we often give up.
Goals are about a future finish line that you’re meant to reach. It’s what most productivity models are based on. The problem, if you’re like me, is that you don’t always get to the finish line. And when that happens, you can feel like a failure.
If you do persevere and reach your goal, you can sometimes feel pride of accomplishment but then end up asking yourself, like Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?” And the answer inevitably is, “Well, no! There are more goals to work on!” It’s a never-ending pursuit of some idealized version of yourself. This isn’t anyway to live or work.
Let’s face it. Life is messy and we’re far from perfect. Goal setting fails to take these realities into account. If goals really worked, all the self-help gurus would have long since been out of business.
A Better Way: Intentions + Dedication
I know that we can be accomplished much without a slavish devotion to goals and plans. The way ahead lies in being clear about our intentions and being dedicated to seeing them through.
Intentions are about knowing and honoring our values, focusing on the present, enjoying the process, and letting go of the struggle toward some distant finish line. Intentions are about making room in our life for what is truly important.
Intentions are about learning new, more skillful ways of being and doing. But old habits die hard having been strengthened by years of constant use. To create healthier habits requires a willingness to dedicate time to practice them. Without this dedication little will change.
My Intentions for 2013
It’s useful to have a few select intentions to focus on rather than a long shopping list. Here are my 3 intentions for 2013.
- Kindness. It’s my intention to be kind to myself and to others. This means not being quick to beat myself up over some perceived failure. As well, it’s my intention to be thoughtful and caring to both friends and strangers .
- Acceptance. This is a repeat from last year and something I’m still working on. It’s my intention to accept that things often happen regardless of what I do or don’t do. I will accept the hard times along with the good, the sad with the joyful, and abundance with scarcity. And I will try to do all this with equanimity.
- Spaciousness. It’s my intention to allow ample time to devote to my spiritual practice, creative pursuits, and physical well-being. And to make my home free of clutter.
There is a better way to move forward in 2013 than harnessing yourself to a set of goals and plans. I know it sounds counter intuitive but throw away your goals. Trust that your intentions and your willingness to live them each and every day will get you where you want to go.
What are your intentions for 2013?
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