Direction over Goals

Written by Arno Jansen
In the past week, I’ve had enlightening conversations with a few of of you that filled out my “product pitch” survey. Surprisingly to me, I came across a recurring theme in those conversations; The struggle, challenge or frustration with setting goals.
While goals can work well for some, the reality is that many people feel held hostage by their goals. Or disappointed or frustrated if they can’t meet the goals they set themselves in the past.
Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with goals. But, I have found ways to shift my perspective on them. Let’s explore a concept where (non-)goals become allies rather than enemies.

The Pitfall of Traditional Goal-Setting

Let’s liberate ourselves from the shackles of traditional goal-setting, particularly the “S.M.A.R.T.” ones that demand unequivocal precision. The problem with goals like that, is that they make us feel good when we set them. The more specific they are phrased, the better it feels. But, that also leaves very little room to deal with deviations, life events, course corrections, etc.
Consider Johanna, an independent artist and mother of two, who had set a SMART goal to increase her business revenue by 20% by the end of the quarter. As the quarter unfolded, unexpected family matters arose. Much of her time and attention was directed towards the family matters instead of work. The rigid goal, once motivating, now became a source of disappointment, stress and self-criticism.

Discovering Your Desired Direction

The key lies in discovering your desired direction before committing to specific goals. Mark, a freelancer passionate about his work, is also devoted to caring for his aging parents.
Mark identified his direction as “Balancing Professional Growth and Family Care.” With this broader focus, he found the flexibility to adapt his work hours according to his family’s needs while still moving towards his work goals.

Imagine a World Without Rigid Boundaries

Imagine a world where you wake up each day with a compass pointing you toward your overarching direction. I spoke with Lisa, a creator juggling end-of-year activities with her three children. Instead of stressing over specific content creation goals, Lisa aligns herself with the broader direction of “Nurturing Family Bonds Through Creativity.” This perspective allows her to enjoy the holiday season with her kids, using those experiences as inspiration for her work.

Journey in Self-Awareness

Discovering your direction is a journey in self-awareness. It is especially relevant for those that ventured on a path of self-employment because they want their work to fit their life, and not the other way around.
Reflect on your passions, values, and aspirations. Consider Mike, an experienced startup founder, who realized during 2023 that he no longer want to build and grow large businesses. He would rather build the apps and services that he felt passionate about while caring for his firstborn son.
Rather than setting specific project goals, Mike frames his goals in the direction of “Building a Business That Gives Back.” This broader vision allows him to pivot and explore diverse avenues for community engagement without the constraints of predefined targets.

Periodic Check-Ins for Continuous Alignment

Once you’ve determined your direction, periodically check in with yourself. Life is dynamic, and so are your aspirations. Take Emily, a creator who values personal growth. Her direction, “Continuous Learning and Adaptation,” keeps her focused on evolving with the rapidly changing online landscape. She plans regular self-reflection moments to ensure that her direction is still relevant to her.

Embracing the Unpredictability of Life

Acting in alignment with your direction doesn’t mean you’ll never face challenges or detours. Life is unpredictable, and that’s part of its beauty. My current personal situation is one of juggling the uncertainties of entrepreneurship and parenting, while navigating deteriorating health of a loved one.
In November I had set myself a hard goal in the form of a 30-day challenge. The goal is to release my first product or service for the TryingIsBeing brand. Currently, I am working on it, but I will likely miss my own (admittedly arbitrary) deadline. So, I attempt to embrace the direction of “Navigating Entrepreneurship with Resilience.” This mindset allows me to learn from setbacks, adapt, and keep moving forward. It also helps me to balance between “pushing through” and “taking a step back to recharge”.

Reflecting on Your Approach as the Year Ends

As we approach the year’s end, I invite you to reflect on your current approach. Are you easing into a well-deserved break, or are you gearing up for a final sprint to the finish line? Both paths are valid of course, and your choice reflects your unique journey. But make sure you are aware of the direction you want to go in.
Mia is a freelancer who has decided to take a break during the holiday season to recharge. Her direction, “Balancing Work and Self-Care,” encourages her to prioritize her well-being, setting the stage for a more rejuvenated start in the new year.

Wrapping up: Progress Beyond the Checklist

In conclusion, dear reader, release the pressure of rigid goals and embrace the freedom of direction. I’m sure that is easier said than done, but goals are not the only nor the best way to make progress. I’m telling myself this: As the year draws to a close, remember that progress is not confined to goals, milestones or a checklist but is woven into the fabric of your daily choices.
You got this! 🙌

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