A number of articles over the years have been published on what makes successful people successful. One of the common traits regarded the setting of goals for the new year.
Google, is also guilty of this approach since they do not set annual goals beyond those required by the SEC. In Google’s case, they actually don’t set corporate goals as it decreases their agility – the ability to respond to what the market is doing, (which is often outside their control anyway).
Because like everything in life, how is it possible to set realistic goals when it is impossible to predict all those factors outside of our control that could influence these goals?
Indeed, it’s important to define what you want and how you will attain it. But sometimes a long-term goal can only limit you.
C.M. Burton in an article entitled, The Hazards of Goal Pursuit, for the American Psychological Association, argues that goals should be used only in the narrowest of circumstances, “The optimally striving individual ought to endeavor to achieve and approach goals that only slightly implicate the self; that are only moderately important, fairly easy, and moderately abstract; that do not conflict with each other, and that concern the accomplishment of something other than financial gain.”
Rather than defining your own limitations through long-term goals, just make a commitment to continual improvement.
Because highly successful people may not all set long-terms goals, but they DO commit to growing as an individual. They look at what they can do each day to make a small improvement that adds up over time. In fact, a small improvement today means you will be 100% better than you were yesterday, eventually.
There is a term in Japanese culture, kaizen, translating to continuous improvement. If you have ever watched the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about 85 year old sushi chef Jiro Ono, this is precisely how he has lived his life earning respect throughout his community and in the world as such.
“Once you decide on your occupation,” says Jiro, “you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.”
Awarded with 3 Michelin stars, to him, it is simple. His restaurant, in a tiny Tokyo office building basement across a subway station, only has 10 seats so he can notice and cater to every detail of his customer’s experience. Jiro increases his creativity by going deep, rather than wide. He starts with his automatic daily routine, pursues a narrow focus at work, and within that narrow focus, the combination of his sheer talent and ultimate hard work, opens up a universe for true creative exploration for him. Every single day.
Perhaps then instead of setting long term goals this coming new year, try starting today with what you can improve on every single day for your own universe of creation.