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I’ve written way too much about my dislike for what is considered the goal setting process. Now before you light your hair on fire I want you to consider this……How happy have you been when you’ve hit a goal?

On the other hand, how happy have you been when you’ve noticed your trip?

Recently I read a piece by one of my favorite thinkers, James Altucher. In his post James talked about how he prefers themes in his life to goals. I agree and here are some reasons why:

Themes allow you to think in a broader manner about what you want out of life.

I don’t know about you but I find that thinking in an expansive manner trumps thinking in small and definable chunks. When I’m asking the big questions about my life I want to have answers that are inspiring. I just have a hard time being inspired by owning a new car, making x amount of dollars or having a business that’s a certain size.

For me success in life is about the quality of my life. I don’t need a number for me to figure out whether my life is going the way I want or not. And if it’s not, looking at the themes in my life is a better way to evaluate my happiness than having specific and time bound goals.

Themes allow more flexibility than goals.

If I need to adjust a theme it’s easy. I just do so. If I need to change a goal I first have to admit that I failed at the goal I set.

There are times I have to say themes in my life have let me down. I find that there is more learning that happens when I’m changing a theme than a goal.

When both don’t work you can say that you’ve made a mistake. The problem is that when a goal doesn’t work, we just tend to change the number and not the total goal. When a theme doesn’t work we have to dig deeply into what we want out of life, what’s been working and what needs to change.

Doesn’t it make more sense to take a deeper look at what makes you happy?

Themes ask a better big picture question.

I like to start at a 50,000 foot view of my life. Themes allow me to do this. When I’m focusing on goals, my thinking is way too small.

My friend Michael Port is always asking participants in his programs to think big. I love that idea. I also know that I can’t think big if I’m only focusing on goals and not thinking about the theme’s that are in my life.

I want to have a bigger impact on those I serve and what I think private business owners should focus on. I can only do this through thinking about themes that should live in our lives. I can’t do this if I’m focusing on goals and goals alone.

Themes are directional and goals are a destination.

I know that when I take a trip somewhere and I have a choice whether I’m going in the right direction or taking an exact route, I would rather be going in the right direction. I know I’ll get there. I also know that just going in the right direction might allow me to see things I wouldn’t if I was only going in the “right” direction.

Themes for me are broad strokes in life. Instead of having a goal to ski 30 times this year, what if I just say I want to have my best year skiing. I don’t think I need to get really specific about this, I just need to be continually asking myself whether I’m having the best year ever for skiing. If the answer is yes, I keep on keeping on. If the answer is no, then I have to get specific about what I want to change.

There are places for goals and that’s what a budget is all about.

I’m not that much of a curmudgeon around goals. I just think they’re over used. Goals have a place in the world. I think budgeting is more of a goal oriented activity. I think having a short term big rock makes a lot of sense. That is as long as the short term fits in with your long term and focusing on themes is just the type of long term thinking you want to be doing.

What do you think about the difference? Do you think goals are the answer to life or is there a place for themes? Why don’t you click here and let me know what you think.


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Topics: goals, themes, goal mapping

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