Welcome to a new year. And with it, the pressure to do better, to be better. To set grand goals and turn over as many leaves as possible.
Or maybe not.
Setting goals isn’t always the best approach, and certainly it isn’t for everyone despite the pervasiveness of it in our culture. One of my favorite alternative frameworks is the concept of “Lily padding it”, a phrase inspired entirely by Stephen Shapiro’s conversation with one of his friends during a time when he was trying to figure out his life plan:
I had an interesting conversation with a friend, someone who clearly knew me better than I knew myself. She said, “I’ve noticed that people are asking you to design your future.” She suggested, “Do not let them. In my eyes, you are like a frog. You should sun yourself on a lily pad until you get bored. Then, when the time is right, you should jump to a new lily pad and hang out there for a while. Continue this over and over, moving in whatever direction feels right.” Her words resonated with me. Based on this insight, I decided to rip up my five-year plan. From that moment, the concept of being goal-free began to emerge in my mind. Today, I see that I can hop from experience to experience. Although each leap may build on the past, there are no specific goals or plans. Rather than forcing life down a particular path, I allow it to unfold before my eyes on many paths. My stays on each lily pad are not passive. Each lily pad hop brings me to a new set of active experiences where life is lived fully and passionately.
From Shapiro’s Goal-Free Living
I love many of the ideas beneath this framework but there are two concepts I return to repeatedly:
1. Not having goals and simply being in the experience of the moment does not equal passivity.
2. There is also a way to combine having goals and lily pad leaping as well. While I’m here on this lily pad, sunning myself, I would like to do x, y, and z.
The second concept is NOT something Shapiro has said, and I’m not sure how he would feel about it given his “goal-free” living mantra. For me, however, there’s something about that approach that works. A middle ground that provides a flexible framework.