I recently joined a Master Mind Group with some other small business owners here in Portland, Oregon. One of the topics we discussed was perfectionism, and how it can get in the way of making any progress.
Well, my readers know that with my notorious Dyslexic spelling and the speed with which I release new content, I’m probably not a perfectionist. However, there was one idea that did resonate with me.
This is an idea that I’ve embraced since 2006. The idea is that Goals Suck.
The Problem with Goals
In his book, Goal-Free Living, Stephen Shapiro says one of the biggest problems with goals is that as soon as you achieve one, you are left feeling empty and without direction. So most people dream up another goal to strive for, thus perpetuating an endless cycle of discontent: Goal-Striving-Achieving-Goal etc.
Another problem with goals, according to the leaders of my new Master Mind Group, is that a goal might be so utterly unachievable that you are always feeling inadequate. There emerges a “gap” between what you are capable of achieving with the time and resources at your disposal (Actual-2), and what your “ideal” may be (Ideal). What is actually possible — and what can live only in our imagination.
When I lived in Nepal, I was friends with a serious meditator from Spain. I remember expressing my frustration at not being able to visualize the right things in my own meditation. His pithy advice to me was, “It may be the hardest thing we do in our lives, but we all have to acknowledge our own limitations.”
Yet without BHAGs (Big Hair Audacious Goals) we would never have 15-minute turn-around times at the airline’s gate, free Dominos pizza after 30 minutes, or even underdog winners of the World Cup. Sometimes these big visions can become achievable. Knowing what is a BHAG and what is an unachievable dream takes wisdom and experience.
Ideals give us direction, and measurable goals provide us with the road to get there. The problem is that most people confuse the two, causing “the gap” of inadequacy. An ideal is just a mental construct. Sure, it serves a purpose, keeps us motivated and growing. But most of the time an Ideal is unattainable.
How to Remove the Gap
Whether your goal is to get a new job, go on vacation, or save for a new car, watch out for this tendency we have to idealize the goal. To want the job that is impossible with our experience level, the vacation that costs more than our means, or the car that would ruin our credit.
We have to keep bringing ourselves back down to the world of what is actually achievable: the job we qualify for, the vacation that is just a drive away, and the car that takes us from point A to B. Otherwise, we may feel totally unsatisfied, even after having accomplished great things in our lives.
By taking these achievable goals to heart, rather than the ideal, we begin to live with more contentment. We see that we can achieve, and we feel we can provide for ourselves.
A technique for accomplishing this sense of purposeful contentment requires the development of the habit of self-reward.
Every day, reward yourself for accomplishing just one thing. Think back to everything you did today, pick out one thing you are proud of, and allow yourself to rejoice in it. Maybe you had a good conversation with a potential hiring manager. Perhaps you found a job posting that seems a perfect match. You might have finished your LinkedIn profile, finally.
Let’s raise our glasses and toast our daily accomplishment. Leave your ideals to the world of the sacred, and reclaim your achievable goals.