When Goal Setting Meets Goal-Free Living

Is Goal setting something you love to do because there is a higher purpose to your planning? Careful! Stephen M. Shapiro’s book, “Goal-Free Living”, is a timely reminder on not letting goals ruin your life. As a change-the-game career coach, I am always interested in new perspectives on goals and goal setting in particular. Here are 3 goal-free tips I took away from reading this book.

1- Goal Setting For Work-Life Balance is like being on a tightrope in a Hurricane

Fast track executive careers often require years of long hours and personal sacrifice before the goal is attained. That goal may result in an incremental march into a Boardroom C-level position with its attendant salary and perks. But sometimes at a terrible cost to anyone also desiring a life outside of work – or rather the time and energy to enjoy it. Be careful what you sign up for!

2- Enjoy Exploring Your River

One of Mr. Shapiro’s interviewees uses an interesting analogy of goal-free people being immersed in a river of passionate experience. For these folks, goals and objectives are perhaps more like markers on the river bank, or where the current changes from eddy to white water. They are passionately involved with their subject of interest and the present moment is more important than some undefined future.

I think there is real value in this idea. It also reminds me of Tim Gallwey’s concept of “Self 1 and Self 2” in another wonderful book – “The Inner Game of Tennis”.

Perhaps the ideal combination is for a goal setter to relax and get out of his/her own way.

3- Master Your Aspirations

In Stephen Shapiro’s world your purpose, intention or dream becomes something to aspire to – an aspiration. While “setting goals” often translates into ways of getting around obstacles and hindrances, the root meaning of aspiration is linked with “inspire” and “spirit”.

The goal-less approach is a refreshing look at reframing a journey to mastery. There will be times when bobbing along in the river of experience will appear lack luster and without excitement. This is to be expected and even welcomed, as these gentle interludes can lead to rip roaring adventures unknown at present.

In summary, I think the most useful tip I got from the book was to discard the baggage that comes with thinking “I will be happy when…”.
In “The 4 Hour Work week” worldview, goals are a part of planning that comes with the adventure of life. There is no “waiting”…each day is that experience unfolding.

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