Sunday, 29 July 2012

Is goal setting overrated?

For a batsman to score a century (100 runs) in any variant of cricket is a huge achievement.  To score 300 runs i.e. a triple century places you in elite company.  Since 1930 only 26 batsmen have done it.  Hashim Amla recently became the first South African batsman to ever reach this milestone, scoring 311 runs against a much vaunted English bowling unit last week.  At the time of writing, he is rated as the best One Day International batsman in the world and third best test batsman (don't worry if you don't understand the cricket terminology.  Suffice to say, he's one of the best at what he does.)

Known for his absolutely relaxed, zen-like approach (cricket can become verbal, even derogatory), you would think Amla had been contemplating this goal of 300 runs since he was a kid in school.  His years of hard preparation and visualizing would then culminate in London, 22 July 2012 at The Oval ground, providing a fairy tale ending for the lad who worked at his craft for years and never let go of his dream.

Yet this is what he responded with when asked if scoring 300 runs was a dream come true: "I didn't dream about getting 300. I've always been a person who never sets goals.  In many ways that helps you because you can keep going without being limited."

Time and again the most successful batsmen and indeed sportsmen are the ones who are able to play each ball and each game on its merits.  A game is won one goal, run, try or home run at a time.  The big scores and milestones come as a by-product.  We live in a goal-obsessed, target driven society which focuses on the result rather than the process.  Amla built his score of 311 one run at a time, batting for a marathon 13 hours.  It wasn't built by incessant visualization or by writing his goal down and looking at it each morning.

Constantly striving for something you don't have starts to make one feel hollow about life.  The danger too is you can start doing things in the interests of meeting this goal instead of taking the best course of action based on the present situation you are facing.  By taking the best course of action based on the present, you will by default make inroads towards any goal/desire you may have.  

Ambition is a good thing, but quantifying too many by turning them into goals turns that ambition into a burden that actually hinders you more than it drives you.  If you're feeling goal fatigue, maybe its time to play life one day at a time.  Not having a goal doesn't mean you lack ambition; it means you're too focused on your game to worry about arbitrary statistics and milestones.

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