Are Goals Obsolete in Today's World?

In a fast-moving world, our focus on goals can keep us stuck living in the past.

Are Goals Obsolete in Today's World?
I think a great deal of the misery and confusion of our time is related to the fact that people are still trying to define goals in a world that is moving so fast that no possible goal could remain in focus for more than 10 seconds.
— Marshall McLuhan, circa 1967

Are goals obsolete?

Marshall McLuhan, most well known for his revolutionary idea and book, The Medium is the Massage, made this controversial statement about the state of our world and goals over 50 years ago.

Imagine what he might say today if he were still alive!

Every year around this time, the topic of goal setting comes up quite frequently. My unscientific estimation is that 99% of the advice you're going to receive will try to motivate you to set new, more specific, and bigger goals for the upcoming new year.

For several years now, I've written articles about goals with advice that goes in the opposite direction. Instead of setting goals, I share what works for me because goals no longer work in my world.

Goals haven't worked for me for many years, and I find them counterproductive and frustrating. However, I respect that goals still may work for many of you, and I'd love to hear more about your experience.

Regardless of where you stand on setting goals, McLuhan had more fascinating things to say about goals you might find intriguing and worth considering:

"As people become more deeply involved in a situation, they see that they have no goals at all. And so, in this electric age which involves us so deeply in every aspect of ourselves and simultaneously in all aspects of other people, we know less and less about what we want to do."

What do you think?

Where do you stand on goal setting?

Are we guilty of trying to do today's work with yesterday's tools and concepts?

So what do we do in place of goals?

Rather than setting a specific goal with a date and measurable outcome, I prefer to set my direction with an intention. An intention is generally broader in scope and more encompassing. Also, an intention can last indefinitely. I also find that I attach more emotion, passion, and purpose to an intention.

For example, my intention when I left my corporate job in 2009 was to impact how companies change. I was intimately involved in many corporate change projects over my career that didn't change anything that lasted much beyond the project's duration.

When yet another project was needlessly ended by a change in leadership, I chose to do something about it. Nothing changed. The hard work of scores of people over the past 18 months was wasted. Something was and still is burning inside me to do things differently.

I almost always start my day with questions, reflection, and a blank screen. While I still have my intentions in mind, the specifics of what I focus on that day, week, or month get recreated almost every day. This is how I largely tune into what's beyond me to reveal what's next.

I also believe that almost everything I write about at Space Beyond Boundaries (now plays a role to one degree or another in where I focus my attention.

My intentions for 2022

One of my intentions for 2022 is to expand the scope and impact of my work at SpaceB.

More specifically, I intend to:

  • Publish the Space Beyond Boundaries book (coming soon)
  • Begin a monthly workshop for paid subscribers (first Wednesday of the month)
  • Move more fully to a paid subscription model (I will still publish a free newsletter but on a less frequent basis)
  • A new standalone site to accompany the book and workshops at

The first workshop will be on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, at 11 AM ET (New York) or 4 PM GMT (London).

The focus for the first workshop will be Are Goals Obsolete in Today's World, where we will take a deeper dive into this topic.

I hope you will join me as a paid subscriber and look forward to engaging with you more fully in the workshops and other opportunities I will introduce throughout the year.

More information on the membership options and sign up at the membership page.

To your forward-thinking life & great success!

— Bill

Once you see the boundaries of your environment, they are no longer the boundaries of your environment.
— Marshall McLuhan