In general, I have found that people fall into two broad categories. Those who have goals, and those who don’t. No one really wants to admit they don’t have goals, so those who don’t wont admit to it. They would rather point to “flexibility” or “keeping their options open.” Those who make goals may be tempted to believe that everyone else should have the same goals as them. Or they may become enslaved to the goal and unaware of either their need to adjust to circumstances or to the differing needs of those around them. I think both sides of this debate are tempted to look down on the other in a negative manner.
I have spent too much of my life on the “flexible” side of the coin. Living in the moment is fun. When you are young, keeping your options open is stimulating, interesting. But you “wake up” after a few years and find out that you haven’t really gotten anywhere, because you weren’t really heading anywhere. I finally “woke up” in my thirties and started heading somewhere, but I found that I was a bit late to the party and had a lot of catching up to do!
I have come to appreciate the value of goals — or as a friend of mine prefers to call them – objectives ( I think he wants to retain some “flexibility” in his life). By nature, some of us are a bit more on the “flexible” side and we have to work harder at defining our objectives. On the other hand, we flexible types are a lot better at “change management.” When things don’t go according to plan — which of course, they won’t, we adjust more quickly and with far less angst.
Jesus tells a couple of interesting stories to illustrate the importance of thinking carefully about being his disciple. In Luke 14 he says:
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. . . “
Pretty simple, really. Let’s say your goal is to build a tower. If you embark on the project with no real plan, just the idea of a tower and you are just going to go with the flow — you will likely fail and look like an idiot. In reality, it is more the idea of a tower that you were in love with, not the actual completion of the tower project itself. To accomplish a goal, quite often there is a necessary cascade of little goals that must be attained along the way that ultimately lead to the completion of the larger goal. If we don’t have a clear goal and a process that we will accomplish that goal by, we will almost assuredly fail.
So, for those who like to be flexible, to avoid constraints, to be free and unfettered, consider that you may need to embrace the difficult discipline of goal setting and follow through on it. And for those who live every moment of each day by a structured plan generated to attain their goals – consider that you may need to lighten up a bit. Learn to be a bit more flexible. Don’t take your eye off the goal, but enjoy the journey with those around you.
Which are you? Goal driven? Or flexible? What do you think are the strengths/weaknesses of each? Let me know in the comments!