Sometimes I think about making goals.
because, as you’ve probably heard, goal-making is a popular activity among successful people in the blogo-welt (I just couldn’t bring myself to end that word with ‘sphere’.)
When I was twenty I was deliberately making goals, focusing on future success & imagined idealized outcomes. By the time I was twenty-one I’d given up goal-making because I’d realized the risk of pursuing an unworthy target. Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to determine ahead of time which goals might make us happy.
At that time, one of my goals had been to ‘be really thin’ (and actually, I think plenty of women can identify with this…) -however, while I achieved that goal within months, I hadn’t really understood the emotional longterm impact self-starvation could have, and, of course, it certainly didn’t make me happy, relaxed, or carefree.
So I quit making goals, because I could clearly see the cause and effect. Sometimes I’ll make short-term goals, such as finishing a certain project this week, or doing my finances, or things like that- but I try to be careful about goals that are long-term or I might get attached to.
When I was a teenager I read a number of Julia Cameron’s books, starting with The Artist’s Way. I remember some of the exercises in those books were creative visualization practices where one wrote detailed descriptions of an idealized, perfect life.
Perfect and ideal came to be watchwords for me. Things I both sought and rejected, cyclically. As I pursued them they made me unhappy, once I stopped the pursuit I forgot the pain they caused and started to chase them again.
Even though I know now that creative visualization is a powerful practice, it can be misused, against one-self, without even realizing until the results are in.
You might think…oh, she was just a young girl who wasn’t able to correctly identify worthy goals and that is what made her unhappy.
it’s true of course, but even now, almost ten years later, I don’t trust myself to set any goals that might have personal investment. And I doubt that given another sixty years to work on it I’d be able to set good goals either.
Because the entire practice of making goals is flawed.
by the way, the german word for goal is das Ziel. I prefer it to goal. Z-sounds are very nice.
For instance, almost every year, I make resolutions– i.e. goals. Mostly these days they are practical, like “take a vacation for at least a week” or “attend a german conversation group.” Some I drop shortly after starting, because I’ve lost interest- such as running 26 miles or getting better at photography. But others are more complex- such as ‘better balance my time between my two jobs.” It’s the complex sort of statement like that which actually needs constant re-evaluation, and should never be stated in a goal-form.
Because, like everyone, the only thing I really want is to be happy. Sometimes though, we set goals because they seem like the best way to learn happiness. And then we pursue them, blind to whether on the way we are still on the right path.
As I thought about this last night a search led to this video by Eckhart Tolle on Enlightenment. And he really says it all, so simply. It’s all about the present moment.
Goals are exactly the opposite of the present moment.