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How to Set Unplannable Goals

When pursuing a one-off goal, traditional goal-setting may be impossible. Rigor, however, isn’t. Surprisingly, actors and performers hold the answer to progress without plans.

By
Stever Robbins,
December 31, 2013
Episode #252

How do you pursue awesome, world-changing goals? Many of my coaching clients have been entrepreneurs, or aspiring C-level executives pursuing new products and markets. They write 60-page business plans, but why? Goal setting when something hasn’t been done before isn’t useful; those goals aren’t plannable.

Some goals have a predictable, known path. Want to build a building? Everything you need to do is well-understood. You can make plans that are accurate enough to predict the cost in advance, gather the resources you’ll need, and so on. It’s a project with a well-established path.

But one-off goals have no set path. The goal itself may change over time. In those cases, a plan is just a fantasy our brain uses to have the delusion of control where, in fact, there is none.

Life is a Dress Rehearsal

I got into theater in 2009 after seeing a performance of BARE: A Pop Opera, which is now playing Off-Broadway as BARE: The Musical. I met producers and actors like Missi Pyle, who plays Sister Joan in the Off-Broadway BARE. It opened up a new world. These passionate, driven people live in a world so ambiguous it makes my head hurt, just thinking about it. They are crazy, insane, stark-raving mad.

We have a lot to learn from them about goal-setting.

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