Josh Haas's Web Log

Setting goals vs asking questions

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An interesting thought occurred to me last night that I want to write down before it disappears.

I’ve always found the idea of setting goals problematic. It feels like something I “should” be doing, since there’s a lot of agreement that if you want things to happen for yourself, you need to have clear objectives. I never went so far as to subscribe to SMART (specific, measurable, actionable… I forget the rest), but I’ve sort of assumed that goal setting was part of a balanced productivity diet.

It’s never felt like a natural exercise for me, though. My problem with it is that it feels too sterile. Like, I have a mental image in my head about what I want the universe to look like, and I’m trying to make the world conform to that image. But one thing I’m sure of is that whatever I imagine, real life is infinitely richer and more complex, and trying to force the world to fit strips away the real-ness of reality and substitutes this artificial mental construct. The point of life is to get out of my head, after all.

Okay, well. So the thought that occurred to me was, rather than thinking of it as goal setting, think of it as question asking. For instance, instead of saying, “My goal is to get a 100 customers for my startup”, I could ask, “What would it look like for my startup to have 100 customers?” Rather than trying to force reality down a path, I’m open-mindedly asking a reality a question and seeing what comes up. There’s still an element of will, there — I’m choosing what question I’m interested in the answer to, after all — but it leaves it open to the possibility that the answer I get back looks totally different, such as, for instance, actually my startup shouldn’t have 100 customers, it should have 1 really really big customer. It’s a more collaborative approach to life.

Anyway this probably fits in the “DEEPEST EPIPHANY EVER -> Oh wait no it’s not” category, but it seems to unlock something I was personally a little stuck on, so I’m happy with it.

Written by jphaas

March 3rd, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

  • http://twitter.com/gtdagenda Gtdagenda

    If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    http://www.Gtdagenda.com

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, and a calendar.
    Syncs with Evernote and Google Calendar, and also comes with mobile version, and Android and iPhone apps.