10/18/2013 08:15 am ET | Updated Dec 18, 2013

Stuck on a Goal

Setting goals seems to be a big deal these days. Coaches, teachers, parents, and employers often suggest it, and goal setting is a theme of many self-help books. Yet, to me, in focusing on specific goals -- and not what creates the goals in the first place -- people are getting stuck in the past, rather than inspiring themselves to future excellence.

Let me explain. In brief, a goal is nothing more than a thought. The thought might come from a moment of insight or vision, but, nevertheless, it's still a thought. And, in principle, thoughts are transient. When human beings are operating efficiently, thoughts move in and out of our heads with ease. When we're not operating efficiently, thoughts get embedded and multiply. We then notice this accumulation of thought through our feelings. The more thoughts in our heads, the worse we feel.

To illustrate how this paradigm relates to goal setting, let's say you're a major league baseball player. From a super-clear head, you visualize yourself winning a batting title. Nothing wrong with that. However, you then decide to make a batting title one of your goals for the upcoming season. You even write this objective down and pin it to your bedroom wall. So over the next few weeks you grind after the batting title, the aged thought, with no consideration for the level of clarity that created the inspiration in the first place. Suddenly, you can't get a hit to save your life.

Why can't you hit? You've frozen yourself in time. Thoughts about the batting title have built in your head to the point that you're not seeing straight. You've jammed your mind's innate ability to generate fresh thinking, new perspectives, or answers.

Instead, why not look past your thinking, or goals, to your built-in capacity for inspiration? That's what creative people do -- on and off the playing field. Their minds don't get jammed because they know that fixating on a goal -- old thinking -- prevents evolution and growth. It binds them to yesterday.

Here's the bottom line on goals: If you understand that thoughts are designed to fluently flow in and out, it won't make sense to take the content of your goals as gospel. Again, visions for the future are bound to change -- actually they're meant to. Get stuck on a goal and you're restricting the abundant opportunities that lie ahead.

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