THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Go Flow: And forget about setting goals

Most of us set goals for ourselves for accomplishing difficult things. Instead, how about setting goals to work hard at something that is actually a pleasure? Here are five steps to create goals that encourage you to do more of what you love.

1. Stop thinking about the goal

The thing that matters most for success in life is how hard you work at what you want to achieve, according to research reported in Scientific American. So formulate goals that focus on working hard at something you like working at.

For a lot of us this means we need a bit of self-discovery. What are we great at? What do we love doing?

2. Discover what you like to practice

One of the most disappointing pieces of news for all pushy parents is that innate talent is never enough– there's always a need for practice. Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt explain in the New York Times that the most successful people who have extreme talent also had an extreme love of practicing, which enabled them to cultivate that talent.

Dubner and Levitt use musicians to illustrate their point. But A-Rod is also good example of the idea that it's a passion for practice that makes someone great, according to reports from Tyler Kepner of the New York Times. A-Rod was obsessive with the details and goals of his practicing from an early age– focusing on the process of greatness as much as on the result.

3. Take action in your passion

Positive psychology coach Senia Maymin has spent hours on the phone explaining to me that if you just start living a conscious life, you can start meeting lots of disparate goals.

I have blogging goals. I want to go back to posting four times a week. But really, what I love, is sitting down with a block of time and a bunch of quiet, and writing whatever I feel like writing. So my goal needs to be to change my schedule so I lose myself in those moments more often. The extra blog posts will come naturally from me loving what I'm doing.

4. There is only one, real goal

The moment when you reach a goal is so short, and almost immediately deflating. Because it is our nature to want something else, next. And that is not about crossing an item off a list.

The goal of taking care of one's body, or sitting down to write is really the goal of being more of your true, best self. It's about finding your best self– always changing, always elusive.

5. Aim for flow

There is a state that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about called Flow. It's when you are so involved in what you're doing that you are performing at your highest level and you don't think about anything else. To get to this state you need some degree of mastery in what you are doing, and a large degree of passion. Arguably, the two go together in a world of practice.

"When the experience is over," Csikszentmihalyi says, "people report having been in as positive a state as it is possible to feel. 

So Flow is about a process, not a goal. You can set a goal and then be in a state of flow every day as you try to meet that goal.

When you restructure your day, you get more self-discipline spread all over your day. And when you put yourself into that state of Flow every day, then your body gets used to that, and you elevate your whole life.


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.