Aristotle once said, “Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.” We’ve been taught that the single most important step in any major accomplishment is setting a specific goal. Having a goal keeps our mind focused on that goal, and allows us to successfully rise above the many challenges that will come our way.
But what if we don’t have goals? Will we succeed? More importantly, will we be happy? What if these very goals that we’ve created are the impediments to our own happiness? Instead of becoming happy with our present lives, we feel empty and lacking because we have not reached all the goals that we have set out for ourselves. We always feel that happiness is still one goal away, despite reaching several of our goals. “I’ll be happy if I get the promotion,” or “I’ll be happy if I stop traveling too much and spend more time with my family.”
A new book by Stephen Shapiro shatters all the beliefs we have on goal setting. In his new book Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW! (Wiley, January 2006), Shapiro shows us that the life we want is not far out of our reach. The life we want is not a goal away; instead, the life we really want is already here. This insightful book teaches us “how to recognize and explore exciting new possibilities and opportunities available to all of us each and every day.”
In our quest for the ideal life, we set goals for ourselves in order to succeed in this increasingly competitive world. However for some, the process of goal setting never stops, even if they have successfully achieved their goals. Life becomes a game of chasing one goal after the other, and forgetting to stop and smell their success. As Shapiro writes, “Goalaholics become slaves to their goals and ignore, miss or simply cannot see the limitless possibilities that exist all around them.” A goal-free lifestyle will end this frustrating cycle.
So how do we achieve a goal-free lifestyle? Shapiro provides this advice in the Eight Secrets of Goal-Free Living:
Secret #1 – Use a compass, not a map.
According to Shapiro, maps are tools to get to our destination as quickly and efficiently as possible. But life is not about efficiency. It is about passion, or exuberance – and we cannot map out passion effectively. What we need is a compass – a sense of direction in order that life can unfold naturally. Even if we hit roadblocks and challenges, stick with our directions. The key, therefore, is to discover our passions, get the skills we need, and create value for ourselves and others. Experience life, not over-intellectualize it.
Secret #2 – Trust that you are never lost
Shapiro writes, “There’s always uncertainty in making a decision but when you recognize that there’s opportunity on every path, you can trust that you are never lost and are not making mistakes.” Understand that life is designed with many paths, and we are free to choose any directions we want. There is no excuse to remain unsatisfied or unhappy, because we can always shift our focus to something that will make us happy. And don’t be afraid of detours; think of every detour as a chance to experience new things. The important thing is that we are committed to your chosen path.
Secret #3 – Remember that opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly
Opportunities are everywhere. Yet we do not see them when we become too focused and adopt a myopic vision towards our goals. Per Shapiro, “When you let go of a focus on your goals, your peripheral vision expands to see opportunities that surround you – inside and out. You assume that anything and everything is an opportunity and that anything and everything is possible.” Ask ourselves, what or who in our vicinity or industry can give us the next big idea? Do we have untapped talents that when unlocked, can provide tremendous opportunity for advancement? Keep our eyes open, and understand that we can also create our own opportunities.
Secret #4 – Want what you have
“In order to have the life you want now, you have to appreciate the life you have now,” according to book’s author. Sometimes we become so absorbed in waiting for the next big thing or waiting for that “better” future that we fail to appreciate where we are today. One technique Shapiro suggests in order that we learn to better appreciate our present lives is to keep a gratitude journal, wherein we list all the things that we are thankful for in our present lives. It is also important that we appreciate ourselves, and understand that we do not need anyone to complete us.
Secret #5 – Seek out adventure
Shapiro starts this chapter by borrowing a quote from Steve Jobs: “Creativity is just having enough dots to connect … connect experiences and synthesize new things. The reason creative people are able to do that is that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people.” We need to remain open to the many possibilities of life, and be open to new experiences. Go find our luck, instead of sitting and simply waiting for it to come.
Secret #6 – Become a people magnet
Other people can offer you the learning you need so it is important that you are open to building connections with the people you meet. You might never know if the next person you meet might have the biggest impact on your life. Start a random conversation. Be open to possibilities with other people.
Secret #7 – Embrace your limits
Shapiro advocates, “Take time to acknowledge your own humanness and to turn it into a source of power.” Acknowledge that we have fears and limits, but learn to turn them into positives. Every failure is an opportunity for success; in every weakness, there is strength. Learn to grow from our mistakes and provide a new perspective to an old problem.
Secret #8 – Remain detached
Detachment is a commitment to the future while focusing on the present. It is not about being indifferent, or blasé, or doing nothing at all. It is also not about trying too hard. Rather, it is choosing big and bold aspirations that are inspiring, yet potentially beyond reach. Doing so will free us from the stress about achieving it.
The book is a very interesting read, especially if you feel that life is not what it should or what you hope it to be.
Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW!
By Stephen M. Shapiro
Wiley (January 3, 2006)