By Kate Steinbacher and Daniela Bryan

All of us set goals - a new car or home, a new job or career, an education, or perhaps reaching for a long held dream. Goals come in all shapes and sizes. They mark a sense of accomplishment. We define what we want, we declare it to others around us, we work hard at reaching the goal, and we feel the sense of accomplishment, when we finally reach the goal.

I want to make a few distinctions between how we set and get goals and how to begin to work smarter and not harder in the process. Here are three methods: 1. Struggling for your goals: “going against the flow”, trying to paddle upstream. Working harder. 2. Not setting goals at all: “going with the flow”, being swept up in someone else’s goals. Work hard later. 3. Setting goals that speak to your values and positioning yourself to attract your goals and their results: being “ in the flow”. Working smarter.

Sometimes, when we reach our goal, we feel the gratitude of having done it, but it also leaves us exhausted. We feel that we had to work very hard to get there. We had to push ourselves to make it happen. We didn’t notice we were “paddling upstream”. Other times we find ourselves in the midst of great energy and activity but we feel somehow outside it, it is happening to us and we have not yet discovered just how we really feel about it, we were “going with the flow” and discovered our destination was not our own. Then, there are those wonderful times, when we are moving along with what we are doing and it seems extremely effective and almost effortless. It seems to just happen rather than you making it happen. Like pedaling your bike along on a flat, you can feel your energy being used to its best purpose, or paddling a canoe with the flow of the river, we put forth our energy, but it is multiplied by the synergy of river and paddler working together. That is the feel of “being in the Flow”.

Flow was identified in long distance running, because it seemed upon reaching a certain point, the running just seemed to take place without effort in an almost ecstatic frame of mind. This is true for many sports and it also applies in business and your personal life.

How can you use the flow to work smarter not harder? Let's say you want to obtain a new job. The more you push and stress, (paddle upstream) the harder it seems to attract a new position. But by treating your existing job, colleagues and your network of family, friends and business contacts, with the highest level of integrity and care and communicating with positive openness to possibility as well as looking for opportunities to connect in the business community rather than just a job… you can get “ in the flow” which is attractive to, not only your network, but potential employers as well. They can feel the ease that the flow creates in you and are more apt to feel comfortable and drawn to discovering with you. That ease is reflected in your well thought out, professional resume and your confident, yet modest attitude you use to discuss your skills and abilities. Colleagues and others in your network begin to discuss opportunities you might want to pursue, they mention people they know that might be able to open a door for you in a company you are researching, it begins to seem effortless, you are “in the flow”! Yes, you still have to work (paddle) at reaching the goal: researching companies, discovering the avenues that align with your values, extending your network, enlisting support, creating a resume, your marketing tool. However, you will enjoy the smoother, swifter journey not just the destination.

Coaches Challenge: If you want to work smarter rather harder, ask your self these questions and fashion your answers with honesty: What goals have you set for yourself? Do they truly speak to your values? What attitude will have to adopt for you to reach your goal? What kind of support do you need? What paddling will you need to do to get in the flow? What will it take to make the journey effortless? Who do you need to be? How can I open the door to possibility?

This article was fashioned with concepts from Daniela Bryan,

Cosmin Costin Main