The Seduction of Goals, the Strength of Guides

The Seduction of Goals, the Strength of Guides

When writing a list of things to do, we look into the future. We write things like:

  • “Do report”
  • “Clean gutters”

The implication is that if we make it through our list, we will have completed the report and cleaned the gutters.

Obvious, no?

Tasks can Create a Force-Based System

What is not so obvious is a process of enslavement. It is a part of a force-based system.

We imagine a world we want, something that would address our desires, worries, and the like, enshrine it in the form of tasks and lists, and then doggedly pursue it.

The future vision is one that, by definition, does not fit with our present reality. But we use the vision to force a new present.

At times, we even celebrate this enslavement, often calling them “goals”.

The Seduction of Goals

“But I need goals. Goals are good. I have my 5-year-vision plan right here!”

Fine. Certainly goals and tasks can be useful, but even the need to continually update them as they do not match present reality is itself another piece of work. Meanwhile, you are also working with a never-ending crushing debt.

Present You attempts to force Future You by making demands. Past You, in turn, attempts to force Present You with its visions do not connect with current reality.

Particularly as the list inevitably grows well beyond any human capacity, we are forced to recognize its impossible nature, if not collapse into another bout of exhaustion, shame, and anger.

Acknowledging the Selves in Time

But what’s the alternative?

Whatever works needs to acknowledge each Self in time: Past, Present, and Future. Each Self has to have their own sense of agency recognized.

  • Each has their own desires and worries.
  • Each has their own constantly shifting mental landscape to weigh.
  • Each has their own decisions to make.

Without this acknowledgement, we fall pray to the destructive Force-Based systems of work.

A Visit-based system opens the door to this acknowledgement.

There are any number of methods by which we can practice a Visit-based system. One method is found in a simple change of wording. For example, instead of “Do report”, we could write:

“Continue report”

Here, we could make a visit to the report, stay for as short or as long as makes sense, at which point we can mark the visit complete. If the report is not done, we could then write another “Continue report” task for tomorrow.

Past You makes an invitation, Present You makes the visit and decides, and Future You awaits the next invite.

Meanwhile, we are free. We might discover other information to gather, a fault in the report, or that it ought to be scrapped altogether, followed by plans to discuss its issues with others.

More Than a Meaningless Play on Words

It may seem that I’ve suggested a meaningless shift, a play on words if anything. That is until you begin to gather a number of these, where you start to recognize a compounding power.

Together, accommodating ideas you would like to get to in the Future, ideas that have supported you from the Past, and ideas you are currently engaging, you create a Guide to manage a the multiple currents of your life.

The Power and Benefits of a Guide

When practiced, a Guide orchestrates a continual discussion between the Past, Present, and Future Selves, allowing you full agency and without force.

Waves of Focus members have found how a Guide:

  • Provides a finish line for the day
  • Provides a space for future desires and concerns
  • Provides a path for rapidly shifting projects without impulsivity
  • Provides for a smooth and automatic record of work and play
  • Offers a sense that what is important is moving forward
  • Allows a dive deep when and where you want
  • Promotes fresh energy for every visit
  • Promotes a natural pace between self and your chosen focus
  • Reduces a sense of “bitterness” in work, found when it is instead forced into completion
  • Brings structure and spontaneity in support of each other
  • Gently presents difficult matters, minimizing tendencies towards procrastination

– Kourosh

PS I’ll be presenting once again at Learn OmniFocus, where I’ll be describing the use of The Anchor Technique in OmniFocus.

Join the Weekly Wind Down Newsletter

Get a weekly letter about getting to play and meaningful work. Start getting where you want to be with calm focus. You’ll receive free samples of:

  • Creating Flow with OmniFocus
  • Taking Smart Notes with DEVONthink
  • Workflow Mastery
  • PDF on beating deadlines with ease using the Touching the Keys Technique

Recent Posts

The Seduction of Goals, the Strength of Guides

The Seduction of Goals, the Strength of Guides

When writing a list of things to do, we look into the future. We write things like: "Do report" "Clean gutters" ... The implication is that if we make it through our list, we will have completed the report and cleaned the gutters. Obvious, no? Tasks can Create a...

read more
The Joys of Avoiding Notes and AI

The Joys of Avoiding Notes and AI

Note takers, makers, apps, and shakers have been quite the rage in recent days. With a promised ease of writing, can we create simply by resting on the notes we've naturally squirreled away? Or perhaps we can turn to AI. From a carefully crafted prompt or two, we can...

read more
Will it Ever End?  … The Work of Work

Will it Ever End? … The Work of Work

It never ends, does it? If you write out your projects -- work, school, personal, or otherwise -- you’ll quickly discover a never-ending sea of things to do. Further, you now need to juggle your options. How do you figure out which is the most pressing, while hoping...

read more
Creativity as Discovery

Creativity as Discovery

“When will it be done?” Many of us have to answer this question, whether it’s a work environment asking for estimate of time for a project or even from ourselves when trying to decide what to do next. Of course, it can be notoriously difficult to measure time, whether...

read more
The Visit and Reaching the Edge of Action

The Visit and Reaching the Edge of Action

Forcing ourselves to get started, through deadlines, shame, or asking others to push us can leave us feeling exhausted. But when we use a Visit-Based approach, rather than one based in force, we support ourselves. Many of my students have described a sense of relief...

read more
Force-Based Systems and the Fickle Fuel of Fear

Force-Based Systems and the Fickle Fuel of Fear

Stuck Those of us who feel like we cannot work unless we are interested in something or are fueled by some impending deadline, can simply feel stuck. We can neither fake interest, nor can we fake deadlines. So, what do we do? Unfortunately, feelings of helplessness...

read more
The Pain of Potential

The Pain of Potential

I could do this! I can do that! But, I need to this! But, but... I really want to do that! One of the powers and frustrations of a wandering mind is the number of things that we can do at any one time. What’s even more frustrating is fully knowing that if we committed...

read more
The Vital Need for Play in Work

The Vital Need for Play in Work

When feeling dependent on deadlines, feeling that we can only things we are interested in, Forcing ourselves to work by some means can seem to be the only choice. However, it might be only have been a default choice.  It may have never occurred to you that alternative...

read more
David Sparks’ Productivity Field Guide Released

David Sparks’ Productivity Field Guide Released

My pal, David Sparks, has done it again and released his latest Productivity Field Guide (Standard Edition|Plus Edition) (limited time 10% launch discount PFGLAUNCH). I do love his intro: “Productivity has become a dirty word... The real solution isn’t about doing...

read more