The brutal and honest truth is that it doesn’t matter what your goals are. All that matters is what you do. If you want to live an accomplished life – let go of your goals.
A good goal is simply one that gets you to act. Many goals have the opposite effect:
- Some goals are so large and scary that we don’t know where to begin and so we do nothing.
- Some goals are seeds which were planted by others, so they don’t help us live the life we truly want.
- Some goals are so far into the future that we can’t feel them, so we have no need to act now.
- Some goals lack specificity or intermediate steps, so we don’t know what actions to do.
- Some goals are easy and simple so we meet them, but brief completion is often a distraction from our true goals.
- Some goals gain you social approval, but approval does not compare to achievement.
I remember myself as a child loving Connect-the-Dots. A page with a bunch of dots, each labelled with a number above them. I would stare at the page not knowing what awaited me. But I was excited to begin and find out. I would put my pencil on 1 and continue to the next. The portrait of our life is created the exact same way. One dot, on to the next. Except, each dot is labelled ‘Now’.
For this reason I don’t care much for what you say your goals are. I care for what you are doing now to create your life.
Here are some goals I had until recently and how letting go benefited me.
I let go of my goal to coach in the NBA. I have relationships with people within the league but most were hierarchal. They were in and I was out. These people held my golden ticket. Once I let go of this goal when we spoke, it was just two people talking about hoops and life. A magical thing happened, the relationships became friendships. People want to work with their friends. I’m closer to working in the NBA now than ever before.
I let go of the goal to weigh less than 200 pounds. I stopped obsessing over how many hours I logged in the weight room. I no longer suffered the overuse injuries that were common when I hovered at 205. I saw that food was meant to nourish me, not just macro targets. What followed has been a sustained period of consistent activity and nutrition. I now weigh 190 and am the healthiest I have ever been.
I let go of the goal of dating. Initially, the indifference made me attractive. I was still meeting women. But with nothing on the line, there were no nerves. I now see the whole person, myself and the interplay between us. Some of what I learned about what I value surprised me. Eventually, I could decide to pick this goal back up with confidence that I’m better prepared.
I stopped keeping track of the number of books I completed per year. This allowed me to re-read old classics, take time to reflect on key points, and journal about ways that they could teach me. I now read more often and have learned to apply more.
I let go of my goal to be on the Canada Basketball Olympic staff for the 2028 Olympics. I took a step back and saw the Canadian Basketball landscape as it is now. Knowing this now, I am able to see where I best fit in and how I can grow in my role. I won’t be on staff for Tokyo 2021, but I will be involved.
I let go of my goal to learn how to code. I took the hours of frustration spent on my laptop and turned them into hours watching basketball film. I stayed on my laptop. But now I was excited about my work. I created film edits for players who I couldn’t get in the gym with. I improved my ability to teach virtually using film. I began to pick up micro details quicker.
I’m closer to my mission. Any goals I let go off are closer to possibility if I choose to pick them back up.
Think through your goals. I suggest writing them all down. You will know to let go of some right as they come up. I suggest you write at least 30. This forces you to think beyond your automatic responses. Now, look at each goal. Ask: Is this goal mine? Does it belong here? Cross out any that don’t.
Go through the list again. Ask: Are you acting on this? If not, can you rewrite it in a way that will move you into action? If yes. How excited does it make you? Does it align you to your larger vision for yourself? If the answer is low for either of these, cross them off.
Let go of your goals. This will open up space for goals—dots of Nows that will thrill you. Get into action.