Every day I try to ensure that I spend at least an hour of my time in activities that exercise my mind, my body and my soul. They may just be small actions, a walk through the woods close to our home or some time spent in meditation for example. Whatever activities I choose to do it is important to me that I spend that time on my own every day nurturing the three parts of me that make me who I am.
To exercise my mind I often like to read a book that is different from the type of book that I would normally read. To stretch my mind I like to look for a book that I will learn something from and provides food for thought. This week I am in London and whilst browsing through the shelves of a bookstore near St Paul’s Cathedral I came across a book called Obliquity by John Kay. The book was in the economics section, not a section that I can often be seen browsing in, but as well as the quite funky cover design of snakes and ladders the thing that caught my attention was the text at the bottom of the front cover. Underneath the title and the author’s name were the words “Why Our Goals are Best Achieved Indirectly”, a statement that immediately resonated with me as it is exactly what I say when delivering my Feng Shui Life Goals workshops
When I talk about goals at my Feng Shui workshops one of the first things I talk about is the difference between goals and actions. Goals are what we are aiming for in life, what will give our life meaning and purpose, what we feel we were put on this planet to do. Our goals may be to live a fit and healthy life, to be a good parent, to travel the world, to be a kind and compassionate human being, to seek out new experiences. None of these are specific or measurable but we know what we mean and although they may change slightly depending on the experiences we have along our life journey, it is rare that they will change completely. Actions on the other hand are what we do to achieve our goals, the activities that we complete in the short term. Going to the gym, eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, not drinking alcohol the day after a particularly alcohol fuelled night with friends are all short term actions that we may take to help us achieve our goal of living a fit and healthy life.
Most people if asked would say that one of their goals was to live a fit and healthy life so let us continue to think for a minute about that goal. Many people will be living this goal without having to remind themselves of it every day and for that they should feel very fortunate. For some of us though, myself included, we may need a gentle reminder once every now and again. Over a period of time we may have started to realize that the goal is not being realized as fully as we want. We may get out of breath when walking up the stairs, get the bus rather than walk the mile home, struggle to get out of bed when the alarm clock wakes us at 6am. Looking in the mirror instead of seeing a fit and healthy us we see a tired, overweight version of our former self. What do we do?
Assuming that we are going to do something and not just get back in to bed many people set themselves what they call a goal. I am going to lose 40lbs by Christmas, I’m going to shift a dress size by the summer, I will go to the gym three times a week. I can almost guarantee that there are millions of people today working towards these “goals” but are they really goals?
No they are not goals, although many people will try and convince you that they are. These are not goals but objectives, a specific statement that says what we are going to do in a certain timeframe. Objectives are very specific, measurable, achievable in a certain timeframe and very relevant to what we want to do now. But they are not goals. And no doubt you are now thinking to yourself providing that you achieve it does it really matter whether we call it a goal or objective? Yes it does, and the reason it matters what we call them is that if we call them goals we run the risk of losing sight of our real life goals.
When we are working towards an objective we are focusing much of our energy on the objective, constantly monitoring progress to ensure we stay on track. If our objective is to lose 40lbs by Christmas we draw up a weekly meal plan, weigh ourselves regularly and take regular exercise. We may deprive ourselves of the food we like, restrict certain foods like crabs and chocolate, avoid socializing with friends and beat ourselves up with guilt if we allow ourselves a treat on a Friday night and go out for a Pizza. But when we get on the scales the week before Christmas and we have lost 40lbs, or look in the mirror and see our new slimmer selves we could well at that moment in time be the happiest person on the planet.
But before we get too carried away, and at the risk of bursting the bubble, have we really achieved our goal? We have achieved our objective which was to lose 40lbs by Christmas but the catalyst of this journey, the reason we started working towards this objective was because we realized that we were not meeting one of our life goals, to live a fit and healthy life. We may be slimmer, we may be lighter, we may be fitter, but are we really living our long term goal?
The danger of working towards short term objectives is that we lose sight of the real reason why we are taking the actions that we are. Living a fit and healthy life includes taking regular exercise, looking after our body and mind, eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, drinking in moderation and making sure we find something to laugh about every day. It doesn’t include crash dieting, restricting our body of the fuel it needs, depriving ourselves of our favorite food to the extreme that all we can do is think about it and spending four hours at the gym every day. The latter is either not sustainable and we end up putting the weight back on or leads to us taking an unhealthy level of control over our life.
So what is the answer?
Whenever I talk about goals, whether it be at a presentation I am delivering, or on my Feng Shui Life Goals course I encourage people to focus on their real long term life goals, not their short term objectives. I no longer encourage people to set objectives because I don’t think they work in the long term and they distract us from our real purpose in life. By constantly focusing on our life goals, by reminding ourselves of what we believe our life purpose to be, we will find ourselves automatically taking actions that will help us take each step on our personal journey. It will also give us a personal journey that is richer and more fulfilling than we can ever have imagined or planned. Keeping a daily journal, taking time periodically to monitor progress against our life goals, asking the environment for help and making regular adjustments to both our life and our home will not only help us achieve our goals but ensure we do not venture too far off the path. The way to achieving our long term goal is to keep reminding ourselves of our long term goal, not to set a series of short term objectives that may just get in the way. That way we will have a rich and fulfilling life without limitations. Goals are best achieved indirectly.
Below is the five step plan I take people through on my 2 day Life Goals Workshop. The workshop focuses on how to identify our life goals and balance and harmonize our environment to help us attract the positive support we need.
- Step 1 Identify your Life Goals
- Step 2 Assess your Environment
- Step 3 Make Adjustments
- Step 4 Monitor Progress
- Step 5 Celebrate Success