• Future Proof Me: Part Two

    posted on 22/10/2020 by Frances Keane

    In Part Two of his guest blog on future proofing ourselves in the Covid era, Neil O’Brien tells us that goal-setting is dead.  The process as we know it needs to be re-shaped to allow our talent to shine.  


    In last week’s blog I wrote about the importance of hope and connection in times like these, which given the new lockdown seem even more important. In it, I referred to connection – the idea of connecting to something meaningful in the future that you’d like to achieve. This is because having an aspiration will create a sense of direction even in times like the ones we’re currently experiencing. I have an image in my mind’s eye of a rope that is anchored to something far out in the mist ahead of us, and we are using that rope to pull ourselves forward through choppy waters. This rope is our lifeline.

    Goal setting is dead

    We can navigate even when we can’t see ahead (Image: Getty)

    So this begs a few questions. What should your rope be attached to? What do you dare hope for? What should your hope or aspiration be based on? How can it stand the test of time? How can it be future proof? The good news is that it can be future proof, but first I would like to clear up something around goal-setting.

    We use the word ‘goals’ a lot when we talk about the future, but what I’m seeing in my recent work is that it’s likely that Covid has killed goal-setting. At least the type of goal-setting that we hear a lot about. 

    An example of goal setting might be this:  you decide what you want – what you really really want – and you turn it into a goal.  You give it a time-line, create mini goals to keep you moving, work hard, don’t deviate and you succeed. And yes, until recently this approach has worked really well for many people, apparently. 

    I have a couple of difficulties with this approach. One is that it creates a narrow field of vision when there might be other shiny, important treasures on the periphery that might be worth exploring.

    Don’t allow yourself to be blinkered (Image: Shutterstock)

    But my main difficulty with this approach is the very first step – ‘decide what you want’. This creates a process that is not grounded in reality. The whole thing might, for example, just be based on ego rather than authenticity. Sure, I accept that any plan is probably better than no plan but I think we can do better. 

    Talent is a constant

    I want to revisit – rejig – the process of goal-setting.  How about we change step one from what do you want, to what do you have to offer?  When I say ‘what do you have to offer?’ I am referring to your natural talent and ability. You have a talent for something. Some lucky people have a talent for more than one thing. You’ve always had this talent and you will always have it. It is one of the few constants in your life. 

    No pandemic or economic recession will lessen or devalue your talent. Which means that this talent provides a fantastic foundation for future aspirations, achievements and sense of direction. You can be as ambitious as you like because your goals or plans are grounded in authenticity and proven natural talent. And you also have in-built resilience in case of setbacks and disappointments.

    Find your talent

    So what is your talent? What is amazing about you? If you are not sure, how do you find out? What are the clues? Well, these questions bring us beautifully to your homework from this blog. 

    Put the spotlight on what you love and are good at (Image: Shutterstock)

    Think back through your work life so far and recall when you were at your happiest at work. What was it about that that made you so happy? Think about activities that come easily to you, stuff you find easy to do that perhaps lots of other people don’t find easy. Think about activities that are rewards in themselves. What activities engage you so fully that you lose track of time? What topics or areas of interest trigger accelerated learning for you; that is, you absorb information much quicker than normal and you remember this info much longer. Finally, what if you asked 4 to 6 people who know you well to tell you what they think is your natural talent and ability? You might be pleasantly surprised by what you hear. And of course the deal is, you do it for them too.  

    Be in your element

    In next week’s blog I will tell you what to do with your thoughts and personal research around this process.  I’ll also talk about what happened to me, the first person I ever saw with unbelievable natural talent, and what I call the ‘cosmic trap’ of human potential. 

    And one last thing.  A really good book to accompany this blog is the international best-seller The Element by Ken Robinson. Some of you may know that Ken passed away recently. He will always be my hero and a part of my heart has gone with him.  Rest in peace Sir Ken.


    Neil will be continuing his guest blog series with us, so stay tuned.