This time of year is traditionally new beginnings, new directions, new goals – the good old New Year’s resolutions. Certainly, this was always my approach in the past – it was a time to sit down and write down my goals for all areas of my life, taking care to ensure they were all SMART goals because, of course, that would guarantee more success! Or would it?
How many people do you know always stick to their New Year’s resolutions? I’m not talking about sticking to it for a week or two after feeling guilty after Christmas! The only one I can think of is my father who gave up smoking and never went back principally because the doctor said he would die if he didn’t – pretty good motivation!
After years of being one of goal setting’s strongest advocates I have come to the realisation, after years of strained family life plus a bout of depression, that goals are not the answer to life, the universe and everything! Happiness is the answer and if you take a look at your own goals then at the heart of them is a desire to be happier.
- If I lost some weight I’d be happier.
- If I had more money I’d be happier.
So, happiness is the destination, but unfortunately it’s one we rarely arrive at. When we earn more money – have you noticed that it’s never enough? We could always do with just a little more! When we lose that weight then our happiness becomes dependent on buying those new clothes, and so it continues.
In fact, it is never going to be possible to achieve long-term happiness by setting goals. Goal setting is all about looking at the future, and the future is where stress and anxiety lie, as you cannot predict what is going to happen. So your mind will conjure up a variety of scenarios of what MIGHT happen. And so, inevitably, most of us spend lots of time dwelling on what could go wrong, and ignoring what’s actually happening. Not very mindful!
I wouldn’t say that goal setting should be ditched completely as it can be helpful to have an idea of the direction we want to go in. What I would say is that goals are not the be all and end all of our life. Plus SMART goals are much more likely to cause us stress because of the added pressure they put us under!
In the current business world where KPIs and sales targets are everything, ditching the usual approach to goal setting might not be very popular. But, as an employer, consider this: A happy, healthy employee, taking a mindful approach to business, will achieve more by focusing on the present moment, instead of being paralysed by anxiety about the future. A stressed, goal obsessive, control freak could well be headed for their own personal disaster – especially when their goals have been forced on them!
And so this is why my approach to goal setting (both business and personal) these days is a mindful one. I now live my life occasionally glancing at a compass rather than totally focused on a road map. I understand that it’s really important that I know which direction I’m headed but I also realise that I have no real control of many of the circumstances that surround me.
I’ve changed what and when I eat so that I can lose some weight and stay healthy but I know that a better diet is a day-to-day activity and not a SMART goal. This approach allows me to relax and experiment with different foods and exercise so that I enjoy the journey.
I know how much I need to earn next year to ensure my family don’t starve but I have little control over who decides to book me or when. I understand that if I send out marketing emails it will often produce business but I also realise that I can upset people with too much of that. Again the marketing I do is an activity not a goal.
Mindfulness has given me so much. My health has improved, family life is happier, business relationships are great and I am generally positive about my future. So, this is why I’m teaching only mindfulness practices now, so that everyone can benefit from improved productivity, profitability and happiness. A mindful approach shows us that success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success.
Here’s wishing you a mindful 2019!