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Tom Evans : The Goals of Learning

The Goals of Learning

By Tom Evans

The Earth travels a distance of well over half a billion miles every year around the Sun. For many of us though, we may as well be standing still.

At the start of each orbit, we often diligently and religiously set some goals and make some New Year Resolutions. We may have plans to lose weight or give up alcohol, to get that dream job or to win the lottery and retire early. We may even have been creative and put our goals on a vision board that sits in front of us all year reminding us of what might have been.

Now there is nothing wrong with setting goals and having ambitions. In fact it's admirable and recommended. What then often happens though is, when we hit adversity, our goals get thrown out of the window while we deal with the latest crisis or drama. We run a script in our heads that life is hard and 'it's not meant to be.' As a result, another orbit of the Sun later, the same intentions are set again but with perhaps a little more cynicism or even weariness having crept in.

If this sounds like you it is worth understanding why our goals and ambitions are not fulfilled. There is only one reason and that's us. The world does not conspire against us — we do.

The disconnect here is simple. In order to achieve our dreams, we need to learn. By seeing anything that seemingly comes up that stops us hitting our goals as a blessing in disguise, we rise to a new level of both understanding and achievement.

This is not as simple as adopting a 'glass half full' mentality. This is about taking ownership. Everything that happens around you is for a reason and you are its co-creator.

The issue is simply this. Many goal setting systems are based on targets. While there is nothing wrong with this on the surface, goals set in this manner are intrinsically limited. At the time they are set, they can only be based on the information we have to hand, our experience to date and, crucially, by our imagination.

Therein lies the flaw.

For example you might write down a 'SMART' goal like:

"By the end of June, I will have over £10,000 income per month, net of tax, coming from new clients buying my widgets at £129.49 each. And each client will recommend at least two other new clients to me so I can run my business, by the end of the year, from a beach in the Bahamas."

SMART goals by the way are one of the better target based systems and the acronym has a few worthy attributes, such as:

S – specific, significant, stretching
M – measurable, meaningful, motivational
A – attainable, achievable, acceptable
R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding
T – time-based, tangible, trackable

Being so very specific though ends up being a potential limitation. Achieving all you can possibly dream, and even more, is simpler than being as specific and focused than this.

All we have to do is to base our goal setting on what we would like to learn. We then don't have to be that 'smart', just more accepting and trusting. When you then align what you want to learn with what you want to achieve, something magical happens.

  • Firstly, you get presented with opportunities and challenges to help you grow as a person.
  • Secondly, the opportunities to help you achieve your goals start to appear as if by magic.
  • Thirdly, you achieve a level of results which are much better than you ever even imagined.

We get in the way of our own success and by stepping out of the loop and letting things arrive, we begin to reap untold benefits. If you then add an altruistic element to your goal setting, all the resources and opportunities you need seem to happen at a faster rate still. The altruism can be apparently selfish in nature too with your personal development, happiness or health being the main beneficiary.

The goal above could be alternatively expressed as:

"I want to learn what it is like to have a business that runs itself. Then I want to learn how to write a book based on my new experience on how to live life more fully and beautifully. With this new balance in my life, I want to learn how to enjoy spending more time with my family."

Embracing learning-based goal setting also deals neatly with any potential adversities and setbacks. Rather than being blocks to prevent you achieving your goals, they represent essential learnings to help you on your path.

When such learnings come along and opportunities and serendipities appear, there is one final small task to do to ensure even more magic flows you way. Just remember to say "Thank you."

Here's to a prosperous, successful and educational 585 million miles. •

Tom Evans Renaissance Man and Imagineer Tom Evans is the author of four books and counting about creativity. More »

6/11/12