Two months ago I had coffee and a really fun conversation with a pair of entrepreneurs about what they were up to. They were exploring coaching and I asked them about their goals, as a coach does (duh). The look on their faces when I said that word “goals” made me want to laugh out loud. One looked like she smelled something stink and the other suddenly looked like she wanted to run. “Erm… we don’t do goals.” At this point I couldn’t stop myself. I laughed out loud. A good belly laugh with the shine of tears.
“Well sister, y’all got damn far without having a goal.” You see, these two young women had just launched their own business. Space was rented, fitted out, inventory in place, and employees hired. Without a goal. Such beautiful bullshit was my first thought. But was it?
It seems my generation is at it again! Here we are, throwing up the middle finger to the things our elders hold dear. But are we throwing out the baby with the bath water?
In the conversation with the ladypreneurs I took a step back. Let me try another word. “So, what about the New Year? Do you have a place you’d like to be by New Years Day? Or a plan for 2022?” Their expressions got even more green. “I don’t do the whole New Years thing.” “Nah… It doesn’t feel right.” Right. So “New Years” went in the trash with “goals” which was soon to be followed by “plan” and then by “routine”. By the time the bag was full I was weak. This was the funniest disarmament I had ever seen. Every word a coach is likely to work with was discarded, every tool pulled off the shelf and dumped. A glorious reminder to me that it is not my job to know the answers, but to ask the questions.
And so I did. And I am so glad that I did. The brilliant young women in this conversation created for me a new understanding of even my own experience of my generation’s relationship to the tools of the past. The words “goal”, “plan”, “routine” and “resolution” (which we peeled off of the New Year) are related to by these young women as weapons formed against them that they were told to use on themselves. They have refused these weapons of disempowerment and self harm and erased the use of these words from their experience. This is not unique to them, but marks the experience of the majority of Millennials and Zoomers. It is what has made us hell to work within a traditional workplace, brilliant creators of the brave new virtual world, and impossible to tell what to do.
Have we thrown out the baby with the bath water?
The words “goal”, “plan”, “routine” and “resolution” were used by the generation before us as building blocks for their lives. They constructed their day within a routine, aligned that routine within a plan that they had made to achieve a goal. New Year was just a convenient and auspicious time of year to create a plan and resolve to fulfill it. This was their road to success, the road they wanted us, their children, to follow. They would work consistently using these tools, these building blocks, and when their children would choose a different path or a different block or simply reject the word, many of them would go into the human version of a short circuit. Then came the disempowered relationship. Many would pull out some of the less than useful tools out of their toolbox and use them on their children, hoping to scare them back to the path with guilt, coercion, force, discipline, manipulation. And when has that ever worked?
This is a brave new world, and the two young cohorts of Milliennial and Zoomer are not the guilty types. In the word of a Zoomer I know, “I’m not going to be made to feel stupid by someone who needs my help to attach a pdf to their f*****g email”. The whole “Ok, Boomer” clapback invented by these cohorts makes us probably the most rebellious and cocky generations of all time.
We made our own damn baby, thanks.
We threw out the old tools, but many of us are succeeding. Sure, there are slow starts and non starters in these generations, but aren’t there some in every generation? Many millennials and many zoomers are succeeding, even without the tools of the past.
So what are we using to build our castles? If we don’t start with a goal, make a plan, create a routine, and resolve to move forward, what DO we do?
I figured the successful young women who made me laugh and almost spit out my coffee might be the best people to ask. So I asked them…
“If you don’t have goals, what have you used to create your own business and your successes? What has pulled you forward?”
“Well…” pause to think, look at eachtoher, look away, and pause to think so more…”We just had an idea and decided to make it real.” (shrug emoticon) “And as we began to do things, more ideas came. And then we just did those things.” The speaker made a rolling movement with one index finger.
So no goal. And idea that inspired them to act.
No plan. Just daily doing the next thing that needed doing to bring the idea to life.
No routine. Just making sure the thing in front of you gets done and taking time to take care of yourself too.
(I’ll deal with Routine on it’s own somewhere else. This is my special cross to bear.)
They opted for a life where every day is different. They shed the comfort of knowing how things are going to go and left space open for the things they have created to create magic on their own. They have let go of control, certainty, the need to know and be in charge. In previous generations, this way of being was the domain of artists and inventors, people on the fringes. This was not the way of being found in offices or running successful businesses. But things are changing, and in these generations it is the norm. No more bath water, no old baby. We’ll make our own, thanks.
This is what I love about ontological coaching. My generation has bankrupted the use of so many cookie cutter tools, completely stumped personality tests, and made obsolete the notion that one size could ever fit all. Each person is the source of their own language, each generation brings its own new gifts. My job as an ontological coach is to be in the unknown, step into the space where the client lives and listen for their own building blocks, their own style, their language, their ideas that they want to make real, and their measures of success. Once the picture is clear and it’s painted, my job is to hold the vision up while they walk toward it, reflecting back whether it looks like they’ve turned a little off course. (Funny, that’s a word we are ok to keep. Vision stays.)
As the New Year approaches, don’t get trapped in the old ways or even in the rebellion against them. Choose what your New Year means to you, and walk into the future you created for yourself. If you need a hand, you know you can reach out and have a conversation with this coach. After that first half-hour, see where you’re at. Maybe you’ll have all you need, or maybe you’d like to become one of our VIPs for a day or a client for six months. Either way, we are here to play.