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Themes not goals

Just today I happened across a post by Petra Martin about goal-free living and using a compass, not a map. As I reflect on the past year, think about the year ahead, and remember what I love doing — the idea of using a compass and not a map, and having a theme for the next year instead of a set of goals is deliciously appealing.

It’s ironic because I advocate setting goals all the time; but when I do it for myself, I almost never reach them. Goals do leave me dissatisfied with my present (as Stephen Shapiro notes in his book Goal Free Living.) The idea of having  a theme, an idea that guides your decisions for the upcoming year, that acts as your compass is simple and achievable.

  • What was my theme for last year? It would be stability: in my finances, where I live, building a community, in my new job, and in my health. It’s been a tough year.
  • What would be my theme for next year? I’m thinking the word that feels right is flexibility. I want more flexibility in my work, how I work, in my travel schedule, social schedule, in my blogging and in my relationship (okay, that doesn’t quite mean what you might be thinking — I do not envision becoming a swinger.) I’ve been so rigid this past year, so focused in getting it right, and making my personal relationships suffer, now I need to flex. Let’s see where it takes me. I’ll check in again in a few months.
If I take the notion of flexibility into learning design what does that look like? Is it learning bits and bytes, is it “snackables” or mobile learning? What does flexible learning design look like?
So if you were to find a theme for the next year, what would it be?

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2 Responses

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  1. Mike Brown says

    Great post, Rani. Your idea of a theme for the year rhymes with this post on creating a word for the year: She has a PDF where she explains the idea and takes you through some pretty good self-coaching questions, particularly on issues related to potential blocks. Most people set a goal but don’t consider how they will deal with difficulties (ie, I want to lose 10 pounds but oh look! birthday cake!), and her questions help you really think through those potential roadblocks.

    If you look at her category “Word of the Year,” various of her readers have guest-posted with their words and why they’re significant to them.

    My word for 2011 was ACTION (since I’m naturally ruminative), but am not sure what next year’s word should be. Like you, I find a word easier to use as a mantra rather than a resolution or goal.

  2. Justin McSharry says

    Hi Rani,

    Enjoyed your post and I resonate with the “themes not goals” notion put forth by ‘Goal Free Living’ (a book I’m familiar with). I think flexibility allows our paths to be shaped by new information, new priorities, which in this day and age are always changing. Goal fixation is rigid and inflexible by nature.

    Yet at the same time projects need to be completed and broken into tasks and so on. I’m curious how you stay focused on completing the project in the absence of firm goals?

    Cheers and happy holidays,
    Justin McSharry

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