Stayin’ Alive - Next Action Associates

Feel the music

Welcome back. With a bit of a tailwind and a bit of luck, many of you are re-starting after a two-week break thanks to the miracle of seasonal holidays falling very helpfully in the middle of the week. After a slow start early in the week, digital heads are being poked above cyber parapets, and the e-mail barrages are returning to normal after a delightful lull.

Alongside the resumption of hostilities, in our culture, ‘tis the season to be goal-setting, and as I had a look over some of the things I’d written for this coming year I was not satisfied. Once I’d done the ‘normal’ ones – business: bigger. Belly: smaller. Etc – I still felt there was something missing. My goals were SMART as all get out, but as a package they were not pulling me in. Joy, excitement, awe – something in that family of experience – were missing.

There are goals that are pretty SMART-resistant of course. I could set a goal about dancing/flying kites/riding rollercoasters, but I really just want to be doing more of them. The setting of goals around them is almost antithetical to the ‘success’ of doing them.

Don’t get me wrong, goal setting has served me incredibly well over the years, and has transformed the results I produce in many different domains. But there are things that just don’t lend themselves terribly well to the setting of logical, track-able goals.

For instance, there was a time in my life when I danced more than I talked. Danced more than I walked, danced way more than I did just about anything else apart from sleeping. Hours per day. My days were basically incomplete unless I’d worked up a serious sweat while cutting shapes on the dance floor.

Over the years, the constant opportunities for youthful booty shaking have been replaced by occasional festive opportunities for looking like someone’s uncle having a seizure in a corner of the dancefloor. Dancing has become more of a private pursuit, enjoyed only occasionally in the kitchen when a good tune intersects with waiting for the kettle to boil.

I may not be good at it, but I still love to do it. It is a form of adult play, which someone much wiser than I once described as ‘activity without purpose’. Doing things with no intention of getting anywhere.

So, after a bit of thought, here is my list of ‘activities without purpose’ for the year ahead:

· Dance – Move to the rhythm. I will be very cross if I get to an age when I can’t dance at all and realize I did not maximize all the opportunities that I had as a – relatively – young man to move to the beat

· Play with dogs – I know that not everybody loves them and that they aren’t saints, but they make my list because of what they consistently teach me about emotional authenticity and living in the moment

· Look at flowers – Not smell them; I find that a disappointment more often than not. Just look at them. The patterns and colours are absolutely astonishing. Much of the time I can’t really say much, other than ‘Huh. Who’d a thought of that?’. I find it ironic that the more weird and wacky a flower gets, the more we prize it, but the more weird and wacky we get as humans, the more likely it is that we get locked up.

· Walk in nature – as with the flowers, nothing to do but soak it in.

· Ride roller coasters – I’m an adrenalin junkie. ‘Nuff said.

I can’t get anywhere with any of these things, but they are no less important for that.

For me, these are the things that live in the silences in the GTD framework. Things that can get done because the more mundane things have been put on a list that can be consulted before cutting shapes with complete freedom.

In many ways, ‘Getting Things Done’ is mistitled as a methodology, but I’m guessing that ‘Getting Things Done You Don’t Like to Do So You Can Get Back to Doing Things That Make Your Heart Sing’ was a bit long for the publisher.

So, if you have set some goals but still feel they lack a bit of magic, how about filling in the blanks in this sentence:

‘I shall be very cross that I didn’t xxxx more, when I reach a stage where I can no longer xxxxx.’

Then update your list.

Perhaps I’ll see you out there on the dance floor.

You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’
It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.

– Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh – “Come from the Heart”

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