by Asim Jalis
A lot of books on time management and achievement focus on this
idea of taking control of your life by setting goals. This is how
the thinking goes. If you set your goals, define a mission and a
vision, your activities become aligned with each other. You can
evaluate each decision in light of this goal, determine whether
it takes you closer to your goal or further away, and make the
right decision. Goals create meaning in life. They give you hope
for a better future. They make life worth living.
I have been experimenting with this and failing. And so I wonder
if this is all wrong (at least for me). How can I pigeon-hole my
life into a limiting goal? Every action I take has hundreds of
unintended consequences. How can I impose this illusion of
control on my life?
The premise of goal-setting is that I can dramatically change my
life. Now I am sure I have some influence through the decisions
that I take. But there is a lot going on over which I have no
control. A lot of things in my life have been opportunities
presented to me that I have taken or walked away from. And in the
end my life is a sum total of this. I control which
opportunities I take, but the opportunities arise on their own
Perhaps the real question to ask about life is not so much what
my goal should be but rather how I can change the flow of
opportunities from a trickle to a flood.
It is possible that there are other people out there who are good
at sustained single-minded pursuit of goals, I feel that I am not
such a person.
So perhaps the real game (for me) is to do tiny things that
Incidentally, opportunities arise through action. Action signals
to the rest of the world that I am here ready to serve the world
in some way. And this signalling leads to opportunities.
How can I do more of this?
How can I increase the flow of opportunities that flow to me? The
simplest way seems to be to connect with people, to help them in
small ways, especially when the cost to me is nearly zero.
Over the last few years I have informally been forwarding job
announcements to my friends in the area that are looking for
work. One of the people I connected to a job in this way brought
me in for an interview at Real Networks and I ended up getting
the job. I had to turn them down for various reasons. However,
it proved to me that helping people in small ways almost always
has a big payoff.
But I still feel that I am not doing things that are big enough.
There is more I can do, there are more ways of opening up
opportunities, and I am simply not alert enough to them.
I am thinking that an XP-like approach might be usable. Develop
the skill to define tiny highly-achievable goals, and then
achieve them. Break down life into tiny iterations and in each
iteration complete the tiny goals. And then patiently wait for
bigger patterns to emerge.