“Am I externally defined? Can I let go of the roles and rules imposed by society? — I ask myself” — Andy Ayim
Stepping away from Yearly Goals
These are the type of questions I asked myself when reflecting on the hyper-individuality of society where we become separate from everyone developing a singular purpose defined in comparison to everyone else. In reality like the South African philosophy Ubuntu dictates, ‘I am because of you.’ A few years ago I started a journey to realise what parts of me were defined by the expectations and influence of others. I have since learned to let go of the roles and rules imposed on me as I started following my inner compass. Part of what I do now is to create conversations that help people connect, collaborate and share more deeply.
I used to watch videos, read books and listen to podcasts about setting goals both professionally and personally. On Google Trends, January each year spikes in terms of searches for goal related terms such as ‘OKRs’ or ‘SMART Goals.’
Similar to gym membership, it becomes an exciting new years resolution, you get attached at first but then slowly fizzles out. This can be for various reasons from setting too many goals in excitement to not reviewing and evolving goals on a timely basis. I believe the primary reason is because goals are set influenced by what others want not what you really want.
I have simple financial goals like a saving target or relationship goal such as going on a family holiday. However with my career and life’s work which are closely intertwined, I am led by curiosity, trusting the process and tracking the progress. I don’t concern myself or think about the end goal. I am comfortable with the ambiguity of the unknown and in love with the journey.
The 3, 5 and 10 year plans never worked for me as life happened!
Trusting the Process
Emotions sometimes sound like voices in our heads. The voices appear to us almost like whispers in wind. They are usually attached to some context be it a particular idea, memory or situation you are facing.
“Emotions make us human. Denying them makes us beasts.” — Victoria Klein
Victoria Klien is an author, writer and mother. She shares her belief that “curiosity is the most valuable natural asset we have to enjoy the journey of being human.” I agree with this wholeheartedly, but its easier said than done.
Personally, I’ve spent years of trial and error learning how to tune in and listen to my inner voice. I believe it has directly lead to better mental health, stronger relationships and enabled me to manifest my most creative self. Being led by curiosity has meant at times venturing into the unknown, failing, learning then getting back on track.
I have grown to accept that I don’t need to have a 5 year plan, I am not precious about how my story ends, it is good enough to go a long for the ride and just trust in my inner voice to guide me like a compass.
When I think back to my first experience backpacking for 3 months across South America 10 years ago. I had several voices of doubt, fear, curiosity and nervousness to deal with. Often influenced heavily by content I had consumed and people I had spoken to about my plans. At the time it felt like curiosity was the driver of my car, with fear in the back seat who I heard and acknowledged right beside the registered feeling of nervousness and self-doubt. As we strapped in for the the car journey, suddenly those feelings in the backseat settled down and I learned to trust in curiosity to lead the way. Looking back and connecting the dots later, it became one of the most life defining experiences I have had to date.
Becoming a Tracker
The one thing that has helped me most in terms of creating the life that I really want, is tracking. Paying attention to my feelings, moments of passion and peaked interest and simply taking note of when these moments occur. It has taught me to connect with oneself and depend on self-guidance which often means ambiguity in what comes next or how long next may take.
This approach has allowed me to find the people who are willing to go deep in conversations with me and enabling them to grow. I track my journey in a personal diary I call my Momentum Journal (example below).
What I now realise in adult life is that most people don’t grow in curiosity as you get older. Instead you grow out of it, or get educated out of it to be precise. Not just from schools but wider society.
Trusting the process is is about realising value creation not in terms of what you make or monetary gain but rather who you become. It takes courage and self-belief to step away from societal expectations from friends, parents, teachers and colleagues to take comfort in ambiguity and go on a journey with an uncertain ending.
“Once I remembered that my motivation is rooted in genuine curiosity and my tasks are in complete alignment with who I am and want to be, my office suddenly seemed like a playground rather than a labor camp.” — Susan Piver
A great way to get started with following your curiosity and tracking the results is to constantly reflect on the questions (with illustrative example answers):
What key things that you do that make you lose track of time?
Spending time in nature, with family, swimming, reading, writing and deep conversations with people to enable growth.
What do you want to Start, Stop and Continue?
I want to start reading physical books on my train commutes and only listen to audiobooks or podcasts when walking. I want to stop creating content and speaking on panels about diversity. I want to continue gaining deeper specific knowledge on Product Management.
What are you not willing to compromise?
I don’t spend more than two evenings a week away from my family time
What are the moments you have felt most calm and present in the last 12 months?
My daughters birth and the Design for Inclusion training I attended.
What comes easy to you but difficult for others?
Learning lessons from the experiences of others, building authentic relationships with people from all walks of life and creating value through connecting people and providing specific knowledge from experience to help them grow.
In addition to these questions, start simply tracking your journey. Like a private diary where you only note down memorable moments such a key meeting, promotion, quitting your job, birth of your child, receiving an award, shutting down your company, losing a loved one etc.
Over the years I’ve found it difficult to rely on memory alone to connect the dots and having an audit trail of key moments that occur written down is essential for tracking.
The result of following my curiosity and becoming a tracker is that often people don’t understand or even respect the decisions I have made or the path I have chosen. However, there is bliss in knowing it is my life, my path and my feelings that I trust. It has allowed me to be inclusive, courageous and bring my most authentic self to every conversation I have with others.
“It is a deeply challenging task to be the first villager. — Boyd Varty”
Let me know if you give the above a try and how it works out for you.