Setting goals in the trash heap where they belong
I have reached the age where I no longer believe in goals. That’s not a typo. I didn’t mean to say “ghouls.” I said “goals,” and I meant goals, because the truth is that they are scarier than ghouls and their power to grind us down is much greater.
I know the fiction of goals because I have suffered greatly in my life for not meeting them and even more for having met them. The suffering, mind you, had nothing to do with the goals themselves, which are just strings of words that cause us to miss a lot of life by focusing on them. It had everything to do with the importance that I put on them.
Basically, goals are things we voluntarily engage in to waste huge chunks of our lives. They convert decades into moments that we yearn and work for and which end up satisfying us only briefly until we become dissatisfied with something else and set new goals that are intended to satisfy that. Warning: Goals are habit-forming.
The most abrasive declarations are those that basically say, “The happiest day of my life is when I accomplished ______.” It sounds like it’s all downhill from there. The happiest days of our lives should be every single day leading up to and including the day that certain thing happened and also including all the days that follow it.
Goals can’t fool me.
We are devoted to them. We shoot for the stars. We dream big. We don’t let anyone tell us we can’t accomplish whatever we set out to. We believe that hard work, desire and dedication can make our dreams come true. We wholeheartedly buy into the notion that we can be anything we want to be. We can strive, sacrifice and be completely devoted to meeting goals. And they still might evaporate, unmet. The real stinger is that the more ambitious you are, the higher the chance of missing your goals.
You will have nobody to blame but yourself. You will be a failure. You might be crushed.
People who meet goals can be lumped into two categories. First are those who set their goals very low, and what’s the point of that? The others are those who had already pretty much accomplished something special and then decided to set a goal for it after the fact in order to convince themselves it was all under their own control the whole time.
Famous people constantly make “inspiring” speeches about following dreams and working hard to catch up with them. We all have the power to do this, they say, but it’s all really just self-congratulatory nonsense. The truth is, if it was that simple to be wildly successful with money and fame as the yardsticks, there would be about 6 billion well-known billionaires on this planet.
Another thing I’ve come to realize is that goals stunt growth. They are more obstacles to than motivators of change. Suppose for a moment that maturity leads to wisdom and that things I thought were important when I was 20 seem pointless some years later. If I abandon my goals, how can I convince myself that I’m not a failure? Oh, now I see; I can call myself a quitter instead.
I have figured out that if I had never set any goals, I would be just as satisfied with how everything has turned out while avoiding a lot of needless soul-searching along the way. Many perceived failures would have been erased and converted into fortuitous surprises instead.
Life should be a glorious process without the self-imposed pressure to make it turn out a perfectly planned way, which it undoubtedly won’t. It should be a series of days doing things that excite us with as much energy and enthusiasm as we can give in the moment. If we are passionate, it should be a beautiful period when we feel fortunate enough to do what we love as long as we can or care to.
If you love education, pursue it for no reason other than to learn more. Find a job that you are stimulated to get up for. Go to work every day to do it well and help others. Find a passion, and consider every day you get to pursue it a gift. Let God lead you in ways you never considered and that he had planned all along. If we are fortunate enough to find joy in every single day we live, then the milestones and markers of success become irrelevant. Funny; aren’t those the things goals are aimed at?
Roger Marolt’s goal is to give up on all his goals and just live for a while to see how it goes. Email at email@example.com.
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Rob Ittner is back on the local culinary scene as the new food and beverage director at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.