Leaves in the Wind or Directed Arrows: The Importance of Planning for a Meaningful Life

I spent two years without doing any planning, after 2020 I felt lost, everything was so unpredictable, I didn’t feel like making resolutions for 2021 or 2022. And so two years went by, and I felt like leaves floating in the wind, just living life to pay the bills. Isn’t that sad?

No one should be like leaves in the wind, just watching life go by, because we have the power to direct our lives. Sometimes you just don’t feel like planning things, but it really does make a difference to think about what you want. I’ve been in that situation and felt like a total failure. What a disappointment, how much I had achieved so far and how much time I wasted, just because I couldn’t plan or simply think about what I wanted for those years.

That was even worse for me, because I teach high performance and how to have a more meaningful life. How could I tell my students something if I wasn’t practicing it? I couldn’t come to terms with it.

If you usually write down your resolutions for next year, congratulations! You are contributing to a happier future for yourself. If not, let me tell you why it’s important and give you some tips on how to do it.

In my DeRose Method studies, I learned directly from Professor DeRose a parable about the future. Imagine yourself and your future as an archer and his arrows. The archer has the power to decide whether or not to take an arrow from the quiver. With the arrow in his hand, he can put more or less tension on the bow, he can aim in any direction, or he can return the arrow to the quiver. Only once the arrow has been fired does he no longer have any way of interfering with its trajectory. We can draw a parallel with our future, because we can plan most of it, but a small part will be subject to eventualities. Isn’t that great news? So here are some tips.

Take a moment to write down your resolutions for next year. Do it in a special way: go somewhere cozy, choose a good pen and paper, grab your favorite drink, put on some good music to concentrate and write down what you want to achieve. The more senses involved, the stronger the memory will be and you’ll remember your plans more easily.

Make your goals detailed, so that anyone who reads them can visualize exactly what you want – a drawing or a picture also helps. In this process, you will visualize what you want – recurring mentalization can help you achieve what you want – and review it more clearly, being able to make adjustments and change it to something that makes more sense after the reassessment.

When you reaffirm your goals with your conscious mind (by writing) to your subconscious mind, you infer their high relevance and increase your chances of achieving them.

One of the most widely studied and used ways of effectively setting and achieving goals you may have heard of is SMART goals:

  • Specific: Goals should be clear and specific, leaving no room for ambiguity.
  • Measurable: It is important that goals can be measured so that you can track your progress.
  • Achievable: Goals must be realistic and achievable, considering the resources and limitations available.
  • Relevant: Goals should be relevant and aligned with your larger objectives and personal values.
  • Time-bound: Goals should have a definite deadline for achievement, which helps maintain focus and motivation.

Example of a SMART goal: “I will read 12 books on personal development in a year, reading one book a month, to improve my leadership skills.”

“I want to be a better leader and I know that reading can give me the knowledge I need. Reading a book a month is a specific and measurable goal. It’s achievable, considering my available time, and relevant to my personal and professional growth. With a deadline of one year, I can track my progress and make sure I’m on the right track.”

Mark Murphy, from Leadership IQ, brought up the concept of HARD goals, an alternative approach that emphasizes setting challenging and ambitious objectives.

  • Heartfelt: Goals should be emotionally meaningful and inspiring, connecting with your deepest passions and values.
  • Animated: Goals should be visualized in a vivid and detailed way, helping to maintain motivation and enthusiasm.
  • Required: Goals should be perceived as essential and not optional, creating a sense of urgency and commitment.
  • Difficult: Goals should be challenging and require significant effort, promoting growth and overcoming.

Example of a HARD goal: “I’m going to run a marathon in a year, training five days a week, to prove to myself that I can overcome any physical challenge.”

“I’ve always admired the strength and determination of marathon runners. Running a marathon is not just about the race itself, but about proving to myself that I can overcome any physical challenge. Each training session is an opportunity to connect with my inner strength and show that I am capable of achieving great things. This goal is essential to me because it represents my ability to persevere and achieve the impossible.”

In his research, Murphy shows that HARD goals keep people happier and more motivated at work than SMART goals. I believe that both methods are useful, SMART goals are easy and objective, they give the way, while HARD goals provide emotional motivation, they give the will.

Finally, I leave you with a template to fill in with your resolutions, both personal and professional. You can find many other templates available on the internet, which may be more suitable for you, or simply write on a blank piece of paper, but do it, it’s worth it.

To find out more:

DeRose. Karma and Dharma. Editora Egrégora 2020.

LeadershipIQ. Mark Murphy. Are SMART Goals Dumb?

Berkman ET. The Neuroscience of Goals and Behavior Change. Consult Psychol J. 2018 Mar;70(1):28-44.

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