New Year resolutions and goals. It’s so admirable when folk are making them, driven by them, committing to them and actually achieving them!! As an official ‘middle years’ person (over 50), I no longer set them because they would be the same ones as the previous N years, and why set them if I haven’t been able to achieve them thus far?!
Do I aim for nothing new then? No. The opposite. I have shifted instead towards living more intentionally. I find it simpler and more effective.
Curious about what this means?
Intentional living is where you seek to create the conditions for something to come about, to come to fruition. If I illustrate with my own two intentions for 2019:
- To get better at tennis
- To consolidate and stabilise the position of the Resilience Engine business
I am unclear how these will be done exactly, and in fact, I don’t have specific goals around either intention, although I do have the first step or two. Why no goals? Because both intentions are complex to achieve and I can’t see which goals will make the difference, and what is realistic in terms of achievements to aim for.
The complexity in my tennis comes from two or three main drivers. Firstly, when I played as a kid, I was great at some shots like baseline play, but not others like volleying– and that skill gap is still with me. Then next driveris years of not playing, I am really under practiced. Then there’s the little time I actually have for this great love in my life, once a week at best. Then there’s my age, my fitness, my weight (or overweight!). And there is a significant wrist injury of 5 years ago that has meant several years out of playing, now having to relearn all my shots so it’s not painful.
I am grateful to be able to play tennis. I love it. And I want to get better. To what level, to what aim doesn’t really matter. I start from where I am, and work towards something better, then review and keep going forward. Thus I already have set up better fitness routines, alleviated some of my end-of-week mental fatigue, have recently cut down on my alcohol. And am now going to work on some specific skills like the volleying that I know I am not confident about.
The journey of getting better is very motivation because the more I play better tennis, the more I enjoy it.
The business complexity is a more obvious one – a start up business with quite a bit of debt funding, with the vagaries of the marketplace, the lack of capacity since we’re a small company, and the inevitable highs and lows of it all. The idea of smoothing the path is what I have in mind, nothing more. The conditions – being able to make headspace, being able to match our capacity with what we can actually achieve particularly in sales and marketing, and I’m sure many more. I haven’t set out to identify them all and set out goals or specific targets for any of these conditions. Instead, I will give space to leveraging every opportunity to smoothing the path.
I cannot set SMART goals for either of my intentions. I can’t see the wood from the trees enough – the paths are obscured in many ways, and will depend on where I get to after the first couple of steps. I also know from experience that many factors affect the ability to drive towards a specific goal within a complex task means that goals are often missed and it could feel like a failure. I don’t want to go there.
Instead I will live and work to the intentions of ‘making better’. I will make these intentions active, every day; will seek the opportunities that arise; will aim to see as far as I can down the line to help shape what I decide today. Intentional living involves significant experimentation and learning, effort and rest, being independent and dependent, and falling over and forgiving yourself!
The core attitude at the heart of living intentionally in this way is not ‘what should I do’ but rather ‘what can I do’. It’s entrepreneurial. In my complex world, this is a resilient way of looking forward at the start of the year. And its oh-so motivating!
Are you navigating complex stuff where goals are difficult to set and you feel like you’re always in danger of missing them? Why not shift your thinking and instead deploy resilience coaching for you and your team, so that you can unlock the conditions for navigating this complexity?
Author: Jenny Campbell, CEO The Resilience Engine