There’s a lot written about how to achieve your goals and keep your resolutions. I commend — nay, am jealous of — people who leap from goal to goal, attacking their passions with vigor and an organized to-do list.
But what if you don’t know how to determine worthy goals in the first place?
I feel a bit sheepish admitting I'm one of those people because ever since late high school, we’ve been expected to know what we want from life. As 18-year-olds, we were encouraged to sign up for expensive university courses as a gateway to working in the same career for the following 40 odd years; a big ask for a young adult used to making blasé life choices with little consequence.
"Tell me where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there."
Here’s where ‘anti-goals’ waltz in. Instead of goals that focus on what you want, anti-goals focus on what you don’t want. It operates from a model of inversion, which entrepreneur Andrew Wilkinson describes as “the idea that problems are often best solved when they are reversed." In his 2017 viral Medium article, he shares the idea of anti-goals that he and his business partner Chris Sparling came up with.
Inspired by businessman Charlie Munger, who famously said “tell me where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there,” Wilkinson and Sparling bucked the status quo to focus on what they don’t want. In turn, this helped them figure out what they do want. They did this by picturing what their worst day imaginable would look like.
On the list were long meetings, a packed calendar, being in the office, traveling and being tired. To combat this, their list of anti-goals included ditching in-person meetings for email or phone calls, working from a cafe across from a park, and never scheduling morning meetings to allow for sleep-ins.
The beauty of anti-goals is that it accounts for everyone’s quirks and preferences. It pertains to various elements of work, whether that be what you want out of pay, fulfilment or balance. And the method isn't only limited to the workplace.
There’s nothing stopping you from setting anti-goals with the relationships in your life, from romantic to platonic. In fact, the dating world may be strides ahead in this area. Deal-breakers, icks and red flags are all common vernacular when it comes to picking a partner. Perhaps our work lives can take a leaf out of our love lives: being picky might actually pay off.
This story was originally published on Refinery29 Australia.