by Kellie Whitehead
Goals, plans, strategy.
Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
Great question. Let’s start with goals. Goals are great, in life, career and on the pitch.
The problem with goals is this - to overdo a sports analogy, if the goal of both teams is to win the match, then one side will not achieve it. Nobody sets out not to win, whatever winning looks like.
If the goal is the promotion, the bonus, the holiday, the new home or the early retirement and you do not achieve it, have you lost?
Every faux motivational meme will tell us that it’s not the destination, but the journey which keeps us alive. There is much truth in this, but if we are not striving for ‘something’ then what are we really? Not to get too philosophical on you of course.
Plans? Now plans are good. Plans are what keep us going, incrementally achieving milestones that may help us reach that bigger goal. But what if there isn’t a goal? What if you genuinely have no idea where you want to be in 5 years' time, and you know what? You are totally okay with that.
In the ridiculous hustle culture, we are all part of, it’s easy to look around us and think hard work equals success. Hard work will lead to a four-hour work week, the home of your dreams, and retiring at 35. The goal is the rock-hard abs, to make Partner or run or sell your own business. You too could just have it all if only you worked harder! What is your goal? Dream it, believe it, achieve it. Apparently.
How many people do you know past and present, who work hard? What even is ‘hard work’ - if we equate it to long hours, manual labour or working in stressful professions that equal societies definition of success, then emergency room nurses and petrol pump attendants would earn a million dollars a year and spend 3 months in the Bahamas.
Sure – we've been conditioned all our lives about the expected trajectory of education, career, relationships, and family. We are forced to make decisions at 16 years old on where we expect to see ourselves at 21. Not sure what life choices your 16-year-old is making currently, but put it this way, I’m not putting mine in his hands. And then before you know it, you are 40 and laughing at your naïve younger self. Did you do anything wrong? - when you decided after three years that actually, you hated Law and didn’t want to touch the industry with a barge pole? Or when that faint line appeared, years before you thought you would start a family, or when ‘the one’ turned out to be the last one on earth you’d settle down with?
Goals are great, but change is better. It’s either completely out of our hands or we’ve engineered it entirely by ourselves. There is nothing we can do about the first and the second? I’d say that’s a cool move. I don’t believe in luck per se, but life often throws us curveballs we cannot possibly foresee. Good and bad. In 12 months' time what you want may look very different from what you think you will want today. Change is a catalyst for a new path, long or short, and brings opportunities too, just different ones. Having the big goal is great, something to focus on, but is nothing without action. Nobody will knock on your door in five years' time and present it to you. No amount of manifestation and ‘dreaming’ will achieve anything without action. No goal is achieved without a run-up or a series of steps towards it.
If you are a hyper-focused, accomplished type who ‘gets things done’ then your discipline will be your super power. What happens when life makes other plans for you? How do you deal with the upheaval, the change or the ‘bad luck’? Should you have spent those years with a single focus?
I can’t imagine being an Olympic athlete (for many reasons) but the idea of training solidly for four years with a single goal, a window of opportunity lasting from seconds to a few minutes, with only one top step at the podium. Brutal. But even more fabulous for those that achieve it, of course. Does that negate the others who applied the same dedication, strength and talent?
Of course, it doesn’t. It’s perfectly okay to not have a big vision, plan or goal. To continue on your merry way enjoying the ride, and seeing where life takes you. No big goal? No problem.
Goals versus life – let's call it a 1-1 draw.