By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond the winning.
This suggests that we release our obligations to be more effective, besides being more happy. Letting your obligations “go” does sound relieving, and it feels good to now that “it all gets done”. So is there no role for goals in our lives? What happens if we just move from day-to-day and set no purpose? Would things get done faster, better, with more commitment? Perhaps not. At a recent Superbowl game (the American football championship), the two teams were locked in a close tie to the finish. The TV commentator said, the teams are so well-matched, I think the one which will win is the one that wants it more badly! If that is true, then goals do seem to have a role, of just helping us go that little extra to achieve our potential. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction between having the lightness of no goals on the one hand and the heaviness of obligations on the other?
Life is utterly simple and yet most complex……If you are only with simplicity ( read that as having no goals), it makes you lazy and dull. Being only with complexity ( read that as having obligations) makes you angry and frustrated. The intelligent ones balance them and rejoice in both. If you look only to simplicity, growth is not there. If you look only at the complexity, there is no life at all. All that you need is a skillful balance. If you recognize both the simplicity and complexity of life, you will be skillfully peaceful
Sri Sri Ravishanker
Understanding when a goal being perceived as having the heaviness and pressure of an obligation can help a person change perspectives to make them empowering and inspiring instead. In the case study above, during a coaching session in his company, Vivek suddenly saw that the way he was responding to his goals i.e. by treating them as obligations was disempowering him. He realised that this had inhibited his ability to achieve, to create and to enjoy his work and life. By taking the obligation off his back and setting it in front of him as a goal, he felt lighter and more joyous in anticipation. He was less tense and yet more focused and this enabled his team to be the same and be more creative and relaxed. In addition, he could also see if the goal was right for him to achieve his ultimate purpose (“the shore” in the metaphor) or whether he should move to another place which was more in line with what he wanted. He could also be more “present” for his family, rather than seeming intense and lost in worry.
- Think about how you approach goals that you set for yourself and for others ( e.g. your team-members or your children). Is the approach empowering? Is it a goal leading to a healthy life-balance and a sense of positive achievement? Or is it an obligation that is being carried around, creating negative pressure?
- How can you balance the benefit of having healthy goals with the dis-empowering impact of making them heavy obligations?
Goals vs. Obligations can be used to help clients who seem too worried and obsessed with their goals get a perspective of how they are viewing it and the benefit it can have for them by treating goals as “beacons” rather than as “cargo”. One way to handle this is to ask powerful questions, such as:
How does having this goal make you feel?
If the response is in the area of “intense” or “heavy” or “pressured”, then help explore further if this is because the client is seeing this really as an obligation, either to himself or to others. Questions that could arise are:
What does feeling obliged to do this do to you? Does it make the task more pleasant or unpleasant? How does feeling like this help you achieve what you want?
This could be followed up with questions about to help the client think about the task in a different way:
I am curious whether feeling like that about your goal helps you/ your team to reach it even more easily or more effectively or more happily?
What would happen if you released that feeling, while keeping the goal in front of you? How would you feel?
Another way to support the client to explore could be through visualization. E.g. picture the goal as a lighthouse sitting on her boat and then help her take it off and put it on the shore as a beacon.
A third way could be through re-framing and thereby letting the client examine the goal from a different perspective.
How could you make this goal work to empower you rather than making it an obligation that worries you?
“Goals vs. Obligations” could be a useful power tool to support clients who exhibit excessive intensity about their goals – to figure out the double-edged sword that goals and high expectations could be for them and to help them use these in an empowering way.
- How can you identify how a client is approaching her/ his goals and whether it has a healthy balance?
- How can you ensure that a client who sets goals during the coaching session sets them in a positive way, with enough intent to achieve them but with no heavy obligation?
- What other tools can you use to get clients to lift the burden of dis-empowering obligations off their backs and put them in front as empowering beacons?