Guest post by Dr Malcolm Johnson
At the start of a New Year it is commonplace to think about the goals to be achieved going forward. Goals can be terrifying or motivating or more likely both emotions will exist together in a certain tension. The very action of writing a goal down brings with it a tension to achieve, to take action; often immediately. How to sort this out in a coherent and integrated way can be overwhelming to the point that it seems too stressful to even start! Sound familiar?
Perhaps you’ve been encouraged to write a list of 100 things to achieve. All that this seems to deliver is a ‘wish list’ of random goals that just adds to the feeling of being overwhelmed. And how do you deal with other goals as they emerge? The potential here is to stop. Distraction is terribly debilitating through the frustration that it creates.
Big goals, small goals, a myriad of goals! Do they bring a sense of purpose, of relief, of direction? It can be a very motivating and positive experience embarking on a totally fresh journey. Remember how it was when you started your Christmas holiday; perhaps exploring places you’ve never been before. Everything is fresh, your senses are more alive, you take in different stimuli, meet new people. In breaking out of the old way of doing things you’re breaking out of a rut!
When you’re exploring new pathways it is not always possible to refer to a map or ‘how to’ guide. Frequently the journey of self-discovery is ambiguous and can take us down what appear to be ‘dry gullies’. We’ve probably all felt this on some of the jobs we’ve done. But on reflection there is generally something positive that we can take from the experience and apply the insights to new contexts. Some of these ‘dry gullies’ can lead us to better opportunities we could never have foreseen had we not started out. Even a small amount of momentum enables us to use our internal gyroscope to keep us balanced through the turmoil of life.
The Sydney-Hobart yacht race provides a great metaphor. At some stage in the race sailors will be sailing through stormy seas, the bow swooping up and then crashing down into the abyss as the waves pass by, for hours on end. Is it any wonder that people start to feel seasick. The trick I learned in this situation was to keep my focus on the horizon; it was the only thing that was relatively stable in the chaotic environment of wild seas. What is your horizon for 2015?
Some years ago Serge Testa decided to sail around the world. What made this particular adventure unusual was the length of his boat (only 3.6 metres) and the extent of his charts (a school atlas) ~ and he succeeded (www.acrohc.com ). Perhaps this is an extreme example but it does convey a few useful principles:
- our charts in life aren’t always going to be so well documented
- the resources available might only be meagre but we can still start the journey and improve our resourcing as we go
- boldness and stepping out, sometimes in the face of ridicule (but more often than not against our own inner-voice that says we can’t do something), can be supported by having a ‘give it a go’ mentality; managing the downside risks to the extent of your personal risk tolerance.
You’re probably asking; “So what happens when there’s fog?” A good question; Life will have its fair share of fog! Reflecting on where we are now gives us a GPS position from which we can navigate forward. But we need to be involved and committed to setting the direction and have confidence in our abilities, our knowledge, our skills, and our connections. These become the chart to plan your journey. And when you don’t have all the resources you need, then take action to garner what you need to start moving. As you reflect on goals that you want to achieve in 2015, focus not on the turbulent seas in front of you but on the positive horizon that beckons. Set your track, prepare for stormy conditions, and go for it!