Last month my feed was filled with posts by people listing their goals and plans for the new year. They were pretty interesting, and I was more than happy to read a lot of them, even stealing a couple of ideas here and there to adapt for my own needs.
I didn’t write one of these posts however. I considered it, and I did write one a couple of years ago, but I didn’t get much out of it. Though at the time I was very enthusiastic about it, and a couple of goals on the list were completed (at least to some extent), despite what I may have written at the time, it wasn’t a hugely successful experiment for me.
Last year I had no goals, though not on purpose. The start of last year was so hectic as I spent the first two weeks of the year working out what the hell I was going to do with my life (having quit my job with no backup plan on new years eve), and the following two weeks were so rushed and full of goodbyes as I left my job and planned to leave for Spain at the start of February, that the idea of making any goals outside of a relatively safe transition from London to Granada didn’t even cross my mind.
Last year was, without a doubt, the best year of my life. I didn’t set foot on a plane until three years ago, so to have spent so much of last year swanning around Europe (and the north-western tip of Africa) meeting new people, visiting new places, and speaking a new language, was an indescribably fun experience.
That said, during this time I didn’t achieve anything substantial. I can confirm without doubt that having no goals makes for a fun year, and I’ll hope for this to be my default in later life (with the odd couple of goals sprinkled in there), but for now I want to get things done – I want to create a body of work I can be proud of that will shape me and my future – I want to build something greater than me.
This year I have set goals, only for the first six months¹ of the year, and no, I won’t breathe a word of them to you.
For the first six months of this year I’ve set some elaborate goals surrounding all areas of my life, from business to finance, to health and relationships; but aside from a very small number of trusted people, I’m keeping them to myself.
I won’t be writing about them on here, I won’t be bringing them up with friends or new people I meet, and I won’t even be updating the very small number of people I’ve told very regularly.
I’ve known about the idea of keeping your goals and plans to yourself for a while now, ever since seeing this short talk by Derek Sivers. When I first watched it I was unconvinced, though I happily let the thought rest in the back of my mind.
Aside from the research Sivers cites in his talk, the reason I decided this year to keep my goals to myself is simply because I noticed in myself how telling others about my goals had resulted in a feeling of accomplishment as if I had already taken a fairly large step towards my goal, even though this was not the case at all.
There are many gurus who cite that you should tell everybody about your goals in order to gain accountability to them, and I undoubtedly believe that this can work for many people; but it didn’t work for me, so I’m trying something new.
When you keep your goals and plans to yourself you can’t confuse talking about them with actually doing the work required to achieve them. When you keep your goals and plans to yourself, you’re either working on them or you’re not – there’s no middle ground.
At the start of January I signed up to 750words.com, a site that encourages you to write 750 words per day by rewarding you for streaks (for example, writing for three days in a row would be a three day streak).
The site is entirely free and has no commercial element to it at all. I saw using the site as a way to ensure I wrote every day, as believe me, once you’ve started to build up a streak, you don’t want to miss a day and fall back to zero. I quickly found, however, that rather than the site being a springboard for me to start writing each day, those were becoming the only words I would write. Each day I would tap out my 750 words, then close my laptop, content that I’d moved forward with my writing.
Much like telling other people my goals, writing these words every day felt like I’d taken an action to complete the rest of my writing tasks, when in reality I’d done little more than slog through my words until I’d got to the end. It was the tappity-tap keyboard equivalent of shouting my goals into the face of anybody who would listen.²
Experiment with keeping your goals to yourself for the next few months. If you’ve already told everyone and his dog about your current goals, don’t update them on your progress unless they ask.
And you will see progress. Once you replace telling people about your goals with actually doing the work to achieve them, there’s no stopping you.
¹ I chose six months over a year as this period it much easier for me to visualise. Twelve months seems way too out in the future for me to set appropriate goals towards, though this period may be ideal for you. Depending on how these six months go, I may return to twelve month planning, or even cut back some more in the future.
² This isn’t a negative review of 750words.com by any means. I think the site is fantastic, and it’s creator, Buster Benson, is one of the most interesting people I follow on Twitter. It simply didn’t meet my needs at this time.Share on Facebook Tweet
|I believe there are certain stigmas attached to asking for help. Learn how to overcome them in my new, free book: http://benjaminspall.com/book/|
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