I’ve just got back from a few days in Sweden (congratulations again on your wedding Ralphie and Helen!), where I strolled around and explored the city of Stockholm. For a vibrant capital city it’s amazingly laid back. I expected a noisy hub like London – constant din, hustle and people jostling you out of their way. It wasn’t like that at all, and I was amazed at how serene the city was.
Walking around, if I closed my eyes I could be in my sleepy home town of Tunbridge Wells such is the volume level, even in the busiest of areas. Cars stop politely at crossings; people in stores, restaurants and café’s wear smiles and will gladly go the extra mile; it’s one of the safest cities in the world and the population seems to be perfectly content in their beautiful city.
Which brings me to the point. What struck me about the Swedish is how happy they are to be right where they are, something that’s most certainly represented in the laid back nature of the city and the people.
In London, New York and other major cities, people are rushing from one place to the next, never waiting long before wanting to move onto the next thing. The next intersection, the next meeting, the next task, the next social function, the next job. I’m as guilty as the next guy for falling into the ‘gotta get going’ habit.
Using the 80/20 rule, the Swedish are happy right where they are 80% of the time and looking to move forwards 20% of the time, the rest of us are happy for 20% of the time and restless for the remaining 80%.
This difference struck me very clearly, and it’s also indicative of why goals – which in places like London and New York have been pushed down our necks by the self-help industry for at least the last 20 years – don’t work.
The very nature of goals make you look forwards at what’s next, never at what you’ve got right now. Goals have the tendency to make you feel less-than, because there’s something you don’t have now that you aspire to have in the future. Goals introduce a gap between where you are and where you’d like to be, which instantly makes part of where you are right now a place you don’t want to be.
Once you reach a goal, what’s next? Gotta have another goal. Then another, then another. When do you get to stop and just enjoy life right where you are?
Show me a goal-hungry person and I’ll show you someone who’s always wanting something better to come along, someone who’s convinced – albeit perhaps not consciously – that reaching their goals will lead to their happiness. Even if that person reaches a goal I’ll bet that it lacks meaning and personal relevance, and so the hunt for meaning, relevance and happiness goes on.
This is how the very nature of having goals can hurt your self-confidence and self-esteem, and is exactly why I stopped coaching people on goals a couple of years ago and came up with a method of coaching people that works much better.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in coaching and in my personal life (and my trip to Stockholm was a timely reminder) is to recognise where you are right now and to enjoy it.
Goals don’t matter a jot unless you have that first.
- Other articles you might like:
- The No-Goal Guide to an Extraordinary 2011
- Life Without Goals: The Only Post You’ll Ever Need
- I Was Bold, She Was Beautiful