Paging through magazines at the hairdressers, I came across a statement by Ina Garten, best-selling author and the host of Barefoot Contessa, attributing her success to not setting specific goals. In a world driven by data and metrics, this was a little unsettling! After all, you don´t start a road trip without a map and a destination! As Thomas Carlyle claims, “ a man without a goal is like a ship with no rudder.”
A half dozen magazines later, I found an article that set the statement in perspective. This time, the recommendation was to put your beauty habits upside down – conditioner before shampoo; sunscreen before moisturizer! As you see, Ina’s approach is not to go through life without ever setting a goal. You often need goals to direct your energy towards priorities. As the beauty suggestions imply, sometimes changing your approach leads to amazing results.
Here are some points about looking at your roadmap from a different angle.
Watch your blindspot! Sometimes being too focused on a goal causes you to lose track of risks you are taking. What are you sacrificing to reach that specific target? After months of planning to climb Mont Blanc, the highest peak of the Alps at 4,810m above sea level, solo in a single day and starting in the valley, Marcel Hoeche, a German running champion, thought he had the perfect day. He set out at 3 a.m. and shortly after sunrise, was caught in heavy snow -at 2,000m, hip high. Losing the planned track cost him too much time that he couldn’t make up later in the ascent. So he decided to head for the refuge that was the start of many mountaineers’ climbs on their second or even third day. His decision to return protected him from an unfortunate outcome.
Seek all the opportunities that come your way; you never know what they lead you to! In my Yoga practice, I decided to focus on my arm balances, mainly handstands. I consciously ruled out work on a headstand, first because balancing on my head was too uncomfortable; and second, I felt I had to prioritize. Then in a class with a guru, I just gave it a shot. I was surprised that I was able to do a modified version. It gave me new confidence in my ability and actually led to improvements of my other arm balances. Seeking opportunities that are not necessarily “right” or “perfect” for your long-term goals may help gain something now that will be useful later.
Don’t let goals disappoint you. A few years ago, a teen soccer player I knew suffered a knee injury and couldn’t continue on his path to a professional career. He decided to take up golf and not surprisingly became very good at it. He made the school’s team for the season.
Two years ago, I set an ambitious running goal for myself and was training for a spring half marathon. A few weeks into the year, some foot issues made me stay away from impact exercises to avoid further injury. My focus shifted to strength and recovery work. I was able to get back to training last year to complete a half-marathon with ease.
Certainly goal setting helps you keep your focus sharp and priorities straight. Yet, your goals are only elements of a bigger picture. Adjusting plans to focus on big objectives rather than the bumps in the road are sometimes necessary. Your achievements don´t always reflect a prescribed road map. The journey sometimes takes you on detours that reveal new wisdom. Keep an open mind and embrace new opportunities. Remember it’s a journey!
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