Benjamin Zander

As I mentioned in a recent post, Are SMART Goals Wise? certain types of goal setting may actually be limiting rather than liberating. The principle of SMART goal setting is that your goals must be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Tangible. I believe that while these types of goals can be helpful in some situations, they can pull us back into the frame of measurement and competitiveness, shutting down creativity and vision.

The only purpose of having goals is to make your eyes shine!” ~ Benjamin Zander

Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, teacher, speaker, and author, was the keynote presenter at a financial planning conference I attended recently. Since then, I have been noodling on one of my favorite distinctions that Ben made in his presentation: Give Everyone an A.

He told the story of how he struggled with a way to teach so that students would take their focus off competing and worrying about what others thought them, and instead put their energy into taking risks, making and learning from mistakes and fully expressing themselves through their music.

He decided to give all of the students in his class an A at the beginning of the semester. The only requirement was that the students write him a letter dated May (the end of the semester) explaining who they had become as a result of taking his class – their own vision of what they would learn about themselves and music during the class.

In his book The Art of Possibility, he writes, “It is not in the context of measuring people’s performance against standards that we propose giving the A, despite the reference to measurement the A implies. We give the A to finesse the stranglehold of judgment that grades have over our consciousness from our earliest days. The A is an invention that creates possibility for both mentor and student, manager and employee or for any human interaction.”

Zander’s approach puts us in the space of “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?” In giving the A, we hold a space for possibility – for dreaming big and creating goals that make our eyes shine.

Check out Ben Zander’s inspiring Ted Talk.

Tamarind Financial Planning is here for you, with individual financial planning strategies and personal investment management techniques to help you set, meet, and exceed your financial – and life – goals.