Forget Goals: Create A Story You Can Live Into

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu

DSC01756Not sure about you, but I’m not a big fan of goals. There. I said it. And I’ve said it before.

Truth is, I’m more of a “journey not the destination” kind of person. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to get to Rome, but I know that many roads will get me there. Besides, I think it’s kind of boring to lock into a pre-determined route proceed full speed ahead. That could mean missing so much of what the journey has to offer!

If you’ve ever seen a road trip movie – and who hasn’t? – you know the real adventure is in the unanticipated problems that arise along the way. I think it’s the same with life. It’s an adventure with new challenges; and if you pay attention, new opportunities!

Realize Goals Are Limiting

Over the course of my life, I’ve set plenty of goals, and then proceeded to not enjoy reaching them. Why? Like Leo Babauta, as he described in his wonderful blog post, I found the process of setting, implementing, and tracking goals to be frustrating. And frankly, I’m not keen on living a project-managed life.

Even before seeing Leo’s post, I had already adopted the view that goals keep us so future focused that they diminish our ability to live in the current moment. Put another way, I began to discern that striving for a future that is better and happier than today, is a kind of trap. In fact, according to Peter Bregman, there is good evidence of harm caused when goals lead to unintended consequences. Better, he says, is to translate goal areas of focus; that is, focus on activities you want to spend your time on.

Makes sense to me.

Yet, even better is to take the more open-ended approach proposed by Stephen Shapiro in his book Goal-Free Living: How to Have the Life You Want NOW! In it, he provides eight secrets for living goal free, including using a compass versus a map, trusting you’re never lost, remaining open to opportunities, and seeking out adventure.

Totally works for me.

Make Your Plans Expansive

Given how I feel about goals, I found myself amazed that I enjoyed getting and reading an early copy of Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. Essentially, the authors lay out a framework for a designed life leading to specific ends, and a known path for getting there. So, here, in what can only seem like a direct challenge to my way of thinking, is a book promoting a planned life!

Yet, having worked with mid-career professionals and executives on the non-financial elements of preparing for retirement, I was curious to see what these authors had to say.

Happily, I think the approach they outline is very solid, and a great start for people who want to be more intentional about living happier and more fulfilling lives – starting now! In particular, I like how they established the foundation for a meaningful life in terms of what matters most and personal legacy. I also loved the way they framed the nine basic “life accounts” in terms of being, relating, and doing. As well, I loved their four-quadrant life assessment profile based on passion and progress.

Perhaps the one thing that I had mixed feelings about was the authors’ use of a GPS metaphor. Unlike a compass, which tells you the general directions and leaves the choice of path flexible, a GPS seems too locked in to a predetermined path or some recalculated variation thereof. The risk is a GPS can be “set and forget,” thereby limiting opportunities to go off the beaten path.

Envision A Story To Live Into

One of the things that I especially loved about Living Forward, is that rather than recommending goals for each of one’s life accounts, they recommended taking an “envisioned future” approach to creating a life plan. To do this, they recommend using your imagination and fives senses to see yourself living as if what you want to achieve is already a reality.

DSC01754

How? Well, here’s the magic: Use the present tense to describe what you envision; that is, say “I am” as opposed to “I want.”

For example, instead of saying “I want to be lean and strong, with vibrant health and energy,” say: “I am lean and strong, with vibrant health and energy.”

This is no small thing.

Why? Because in creating a detailed picture of a positive end-state, we give your brains a story to live into. I know it seems kind of woo woo, but research on anticipatory joy tends to support this.

As I see it, creating a story I can live into establishes a quest. And that’s much more appealing than project management.

What do you think?

Embracing Possibility: Why Glamour Fuels Your Vision for Success

BeatsI don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a big fan of top brands. Part of the reason is that I’ve found that the premium you pay is often worth it. But I’m also cautious.  So, as I’m now in the market for Bluetooth headphones, I’ve been reading and watching a lot of reviews. Among the models I’ve been looking at is Beats By Dre Wireless Headphones. Interestingly, in his review Kevin Nether said some things that struck me as compelling, and set me thinking about the power for branding – especially what makes for our emotional connection to brands we love.

Specifically, he noted that after being introduced by Dr. Dre, Beats headphones gained visibility via Hip Hop producers and celebrities as well as product placement. He went on to explain that over time, these headphones have become more of a fashion statement, “rather than a premium audio set up.”  While making the point that the product doesn’t skimp, he says,  “You end up paying more because it has a Beats logo on it, point blank, period.” [Tweet this]

And as you may already know, countless people do!

Branding and Glamour

Up to now, I’ve taken emotional connection to brands for granted, and not looked any deeper. Yet, in recently reading Virginia Postrel’s The Power of Glamour, I’m getting a deeper appreciation of the emotional connection we have to our favorite brands. Fundamentally, the attraction starts with the glamour conveyed by the brand. That is, with its power to tap our longings, even if only barely formed, it gives them an object of focus. It is pleasurable, even if only for a few moments.  Glamour can make an object attractive. Yet, glamour is double edged.  [Tweet this] As Postrel says:

“Glamour is an illusion and, according to its critics, a dangerous snare. But because it recognizes and concentrates real desires, the mirage can also prove a valuable, life-enhancing inspiration. Glamour, we can now say, is … an illusion “known to be false but felt to be true.” It focuses inchoate desires and embodies them in the image or idea of a person, a setting, an artifact, or occasionally a concept. By inviting projection and making the ideal feel attainable, the glamorous image intensifies longing and, in some cases, moves the audience to action.”

If you think about it, what’s attracted you to particular brands goes beyond packaging and promotion. Rather, what makes a brand attractive is it’s promise of transformation. [Tweet this]

That transformation is very likely multifaceted, but also includes how the product bolsters your social status and sense of identity. As Nether points out in his Beats review, “…let me tell you, people comment, ask to listen, and even give me awkward fist pumps because I’m wearing Beats. It seems like there is a silent camaraderie when purchasing Beats headphones, with other owners and people who just envy you.”

While quality and the underlying performance of a brand matter, loyalty is more about the added benefits the brand provides. And perhaps one of the most powerful benefits is the sense of exclusivity that comes from being an insider. In fact, the glamour of a brand also taps a desire for fellowship and belonging. [Tweet this] It’s not that people merely envy you, it’s that they see a bond of shared community. You can see this in operation in a widely diverse array of brand communities – from Apple Stores to Harley Owners Groups!

Beyond the Unimagined Life

As you’ve no doubt heard, Greek philosopher Socrates once said the unexamined life is not worth living.  Yet, have you ever stopped to consider the value of the unimagined life? I’ll bet you haven’t. Because, as a human being, you regularly tap into a powerful engine of imagination. It’s called story.

Stories, both other people’s and the one’s we tell ourselves, are key to our survival. We’re wired for story. We live in story. Stories teach us, entertain us, and inspire us. They show us what we can do in life, and often move us to action. In this way, story can drive transformation. And so can glamour. [Tweet this]

Catwalk Ready

As with story, the essential elements of glamour are a promise of escape and transformation, grace, and mystery. Each, in its own way, serves the illusion that is glamour but also it’s appeal. Interestingly, glamour is meant to hide the details, to keep us at a distance. It is the runway show, not the tailoring. Yet, it is this very distance that supports an ideal extension of self. Glamour fires our imagination, and creates a possibility we can live into. [Tweet this]

It’s a Vision Thing

Let’s face it. While you respond to it, glamour is just not something you ordinarily think about. And when you do, you may tend to think of it as a fantasy, or even trivial. After all, because glamour is an illusion, it’s dream like. And yet, what is a vision if not an expression of a longing for a better world? On some level, it seems fair to say that glamour and vision are two sides of one of the same coin. Each enables a broad-brush promise of future fulfillment, leaving us to work out the details for ourselves. As Postrel concludes:

“… the American Dream is an exercise in glamour and, however illusory the dream may sometimes be, the country is better off for the inspiration. When used as a guide rather than as an impossibly perfect goal in itself, glamour can point its audience toward a better, more satisfying life…”

If you haven’t noticed the longings that glamour stirs in you, it may be time you did.

###

How does glamour enrich your life? What are the possibilities you are living in to? Just leave a comment. I’d love to know.

Discover Your Story

Discover-Your-Story-235x300Do you love a good story? I know I do. Over the course of my life, I’ve been captured by the magic of stories, and enriched by the lessons they provide. Yet, to be perfectly honest, I never really gave much thought to what went into developing those stories in the first place. How about you? I suspect that if you’re like most people, you really aren’t a “story geek” either. Basically, you just enjoy the magic, and take away the parts that apply to your experience, and perhaps to your aspirations.

You already know stories have tremendous power that can be harnessed to make an impact! In fact, they have been part of our humanity, since pre-historic times. Scientific research suggests that we are wired for story, and that it has played a significant part in helping us survive, learn, and form communities.

Still, these days, it seems like storytelling has taken on renewed importance in careers and business. The fact that stories are engaging and create strong bonds is not lost on marketers. I believe it shouldn’t be lost on you, either. I think you know this. Right? I mean it’s hard to run a business or career, these days, with the idea of telling your story popping up.

But what exactly is your story? And how do you tell it? [Read more…]