We often need to choose one of two approaches to our lives. The first is by taking a planning approach, where we prepare everything possible in advance. The other approach is a fluid one in which we go with the flow and let things happen naturally.
These are not necessarily “good” or “bad” approaches, but they each have their own benefits that can help us live happier lives. For example, planning everything in advance ensures we are ready for whatever might come our way while letting things happen naturally allows you to be more flexible and spontaneous.
In general, those who pursue concrete goals tend to be more successful, but they also often have a lower level of well-being because their focus is solely on achieving something specific rather than acknowledging the process itself.
On the other hand, going with the flow can make you happier as long as you don’t push yourself too hard or ignore things that are important.
In the end, we need to create our own unique blend of structuring concrete goals and going with the flow. This will manifest differently for each person and will change depending on their needs, personal projects, and phases in life.
Let’s discuss the benefits and disadvantages of both approaches so that you can decide when it’s best to use each one.
Concrete Goals vs Going with the Flow
Setting a concrete goal includes a clear desired outcome, a plan of action, and a deadline. You can think of it as being focused on the destination rather than the journey itself.
On the other hand, going with the flow means letting things happen naturally without trying to control them or manipulate your environment in any way. It’s about embracing spontaneity and allowing life to unfold before you instead of trying to make it bend to your will.
The main difference between these two approaches is your flexibility in regard to where you end up. When choosing between these two approaches to life, you can think of it as choosing between a fixed and flexible destination.
What Are Some Benefits of Going With the Flow?
When you go with the flow, you can experience many benefits such as:
- Being able to enjoy the process of achieving something without becoming too focused on the outcome itself
- Being free from worrying about what might happen next, because you are letting life lead you instead of trying to force it into a preconceived path
- Letting go of stress and anxiety by accepting your current situation, whatever that may be
- Not needing to plan every detail in advance in order to feel prepared for the future
- Being flexible to unforeseen circumstances, which can often lead to better results
At the root of all of these benefits is one overarching theme. When we go with the flow and allow life to lead us rather than force our own agenda onto it, we are more open to whatever comes next. This means that we may find solutions even grander than what we ever imagined because we are not limited by our own preconceived ideas.
We are also able to appreciate the present moment for what it is instead of worrying about what might happen in the future. This is because we are allowing life to happen instead of trying to control the outcome.
This approach can also help us set realistic goals and expectations. When you go with the flow, it’s easier to accept where things end up rather than feel like a failure if something doesn’t turn out as planned. You know that this is just part of being human and not something to feel ashamed about.
This allows us to be more flexible in many ways, both mentally and emotionally. When you go with the flow instead of trying to control your environment or what happens to you, it’s easier for things like stress and anxiety to melt away because they don’t have a foothold on your life anymore.
What Are Some Drawbacks of Going With the Flow?
While going with the flow can be very beneficial and rewarding, it’s not without its faults. Some of the most notable include:
- Not setting a clear goal or deadline in advance, which makes it difficult to achieve your desired outcome or know when you will finish something
- Not planning ahead for emergencies, unplanned expenses, or other circumstances that may come up unexpectedly
- Having a hard time synchronizing with other people or following a pre-existing schedule that you must adhere to
- Taking much longer on tasks than you would if you were more goal-oriented
As you can see, we risk losing some control when we go with the flow. It’s also harder to have clarity about where we are going and when a particular task will be finished.
What Are Some Benefits of Concrete Goals?
Setting concrete goals has many benefits as well. Some of these include:
- Being able to stay focused on achieving specific outcomes without getting distracted by life’s curveballs
- Having a clear deadline in advance that you can work towards every day or week until it is reached
- Being able to measure your progress as you are working towards your desired outcome
- Knowing which small actionable steps to take each day that make your progress more efficient and effective
- Having a sense of accountability and responsibility towards your desired outcome, which pushes you to work harder when things get tough or challenging
- Being able to clearly express to others what your plan of action is
In general, setting concrete goals helps you to get a specific outcome. It’s important not to mistake this for perfectionism, since none of us can predict the future.
However, this practice helps us to achieve the particular result that we want. Many people embrace the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-limited. This is helpful because it helps us to make sure that our future path is a valid choice that fits well into our lifestyles, our communities, and our values.
Creating concrete goals also lets us know when it’s time to celebrate. When we have a clear idea of the work we want to be doing on a daily basis, it’s an incredible feeling to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. This inspires us to take better care of ourselves and others when we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
What Are Some Drawbacks of Concrete Goals?
On the flip side of this, setting concrete goals may not always be beneficial. Some of these potential drawbacks include:
- Feeling disappointed if we aren’t able to adhere to our goal structure
- Creating a sense of pressure and tension if you feel like your future plans are too much work or take up too much time
- Setting unattainable goals that don’t actually fit into our lifestyles, which can generate a lot of stress and worry
- Spending too much time planning our goals and not enough time achieving them
- Missing out on opportunities because we have a limited view of what is possible
The largest issue with concrete goals is that they create high expectations that can be difficult to live up to. When we set a goal, it’s important that we take into account the amount of work and time involved in achieving this result. Effectively setting goals can be an incredible tool for self-growth and satisfaction. However, if not done correctly, they may cause more harm than good.
Let’s Talk About Balance
It can be easy to get carried away and focus too much on either going with the flow or establishing concrete goals in your life. The truth is that we need a balance between both approaches, just like any other aspect of being human.
The moment when you decide which approach will work best for you is when your circumstances change. For example, if you are planning to go on vacation and need a clear deadline for an important task, it may be better to set concrete goals so that this project isn’t neglected while having fun with family or friends.
If the stress of working towards your goal causes too much tension in your life, it may be better to temporarily shift your focus from concrete goals to going with the flow instead. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, as long as you don’t become so distracted that your desired outcome isn’t achieved in a reasonable timeframe.
Whether you are feeling overwhelmed by life or stuck because of boredom, there is no right answer for all situations. The best answer will depend on what your goals are and how they fit into the life that you want to lead.