I had a bit of an epiphany at the weekend…
I was at a workshop, run by Sarah Alexander and Nick Williams, about “Spiritual Intelligence in Coaching”. Now, normally, anything with the word “spiritual” in the title, I would avoid like the plague, because the very word makes me feel uncomfortable.
I’m so glad I went, though, because it explained something I had come to realise only the previous day: why I have always had such trouble with goal setting!
The day before, I had been looking back over my life, trying to work out my recipe for success. And it occurred to me that it had nothing to do with setting goals, or pushing to make things happen. Even in my corporate career, before I became self-employed, I never used to set goals.
Whenever I was asked, during appraisals: “where do you see yourself in five years’ time”, I used to answer: “I don’t know. It depends on what opportunities come up.”
I only started setting goals when I started my coaching business, because the perceived wisdom seemed to be that, if you want to be successful in Life, you have to not only set goals, you also have to have an action plan for achieving those goals.
But the goals I set myself either were too big, so they were unachievable, or they weren’t what I really wanted to do, deep down. So I failed. Miserably.
So what did I do in the past, that was so different?
I used to set intentions. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know that’s what they were called, and I didn’t understand anything about the process. I just used to think that “life was easy”, that I “fell” into things, and that I used to “land on my feet”.
What I realise now is that I was, in my own way, following the Buddhist practice of nonattachment – of setting an intention, and then being unattached from the outcome.
That doesn’t mean I took no action. It just meant that I didn’t worry if the actions I took didn’t produce immediate results. I knew that, if my intention was good – the right thing for me to do – then it would work out. And most of the time, that’s exactly what happened.
So the epiphany I had at the weekend was to understand that this is Spiritual Intelligence in action. That goal setting comes from the more traditional, left-brain, rational, masculine, mind-centred way of thinking – whereas I had instinctively been practising a more right-brain, creative / intuitive, feminine, heart-centred way of thinking throughout my life.
It’s not that either method is right or wrong – it’s just that one way may work better for a particular individual. Ideally, though, you would bring together elements of both ways of thinking.
From now on, I shall stop giving myself a hard time about not setting goals. Instead, I shall revert to what worked best for me.
I shall be Taking Life As It Comes. And I shall be encouraging my coaching clients to do the same.