Goals FTW, or WTF?

by Jeb on 04/20/2009

A while back I wrote down some goals. I just went back and reviewed that post again and I’m still happy with them. But there’s a noticeable lack of specifics as it concerns those goals, and it’s something that’s been bugging me for a while now.

Unfortunately, remedying that conspicuous shortcoming bugs me even more. To quote a passage from that post…

But in these times of corporate irresponsibility and necessary agility, my focus is changing. The 20 year plan no longer seems to fit. The thought of a ‘career path’ is anachronistic. No, today seems to demand a new way of thinking about the future…one that recognizes the flaws of the current system. One that appreciates the simplicity found in different cultures, earlier eras. One that, in short, values this moment above all others, and recognizes the importance that it plays in all that is to follow.

I just cant get past the conflict that arises between living for today and planning for the future. I’ve spent so much damn time looking ahead. Talking about life in the future tense. And frankly, I’m not all that pleased with the score at half-time.

Don’t misconstrue, there’s a lot going right in my life - I have a beautiful and loving wife, 2 particularly awesome boys, I’m pretty kick-ass on a skateboard and I have a formidable posse.

But see? That’s just it. I have so many really good things right here, right in front of me at this very moment. Why do I have to want more? Why is it important that I write down my 3/5/10 year goals, create action steps, review them religiously, become a card carrying member of the GTD movement, make a bar graph to reflect my progress, etcetera etcetera etcetera???

Setting goals, to me, feels a lot like searching…trying to find yourself. As opposed to creating. Zoe had a bit to say about that topic as I was writing this and though I hadn’t really thought about it in that way, I think the two topics are closely related.

Planning. Goal-setting. Looking ahead. I just don’t know. What’s wrong with living right here and now? Isn’t it possible that by focusing on the bird in the hand, more will serendipitously fall from the bush? By getting absorbed in the living of today and enjoying the blessings it offers, we will be triggering those universal forces that long to give us more?

I feel sometimes like I wandered into a rather dense forest and somebody told my I needed to find my way out. So for years I’ve been searching. But damn it…I love trees. Love to climb ‘em. Love the way they smell, the feel of their bark on my skin, the animals that live in them, the oxygen the so generously offer. I freaking LOVE the forrest.

How about I stay here? Build a tree house. Maybe hang a tire swing from that limb over there. Would that be so bad?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim Brownson 04.20.09 at 3:50 pm

Can I be horribly cliched and say it’s all about balance.

Goal setting is important imho as is dreaming. Without them we’d not have TiVo and I aint giving that up. But we do need to sniff our own butts and scratch the flowers from time to time.

So in conclusion. Whilst you’re hanging around in the trees with weird bugs you didn’t even know existed crawling up your ass crack, take some time to dream about stuff. Nothing in particular, just stuff.

Get Tim Brownson’s content here..You’re Not Alone

Jeb 04.20.09 at 4:03 pm

Okay Tim, I can dig balance. I am, after all, a skateboarder. And for the record, I have no problems with dreaming…I’m a dreamer at heart, for sure. So, then, are dreaming and goal-setting the same? In terms of value? Because dreaming feels better to me. I can dream while I’m swinging in the tire swing, no problemo.

Thanks for dropping by sir.

Tim Brownson 04.20.09 at 4:34 pm

I’d say dreams were goals without deadlines. Dreaming is really cool, but it is nearly always future based. So I suppose dreaming is what us arty types do ;-) whilst more left brain people set goals.

I’ve no idea really.

Get Tim Brownson’s content here..You’re Not Alone

Zoe 04.20.09 at 6:54 pm

I’m with you guys on the balance bit! I think framing it this way might help reconcile this in your mind: the choices you make at every turn are another layer of creating yourself. I think it’s really important to have a sense of what your values are (and your beliefs, right Tim??) so that the choices you are constantly making are in tune with those values. Seems to me you’re quite in tune with that, Jeb, so I don’t think that creating yourself necessitates making a 10-year plan. Above all, it means making conscious choices. Does that makes sense? :)
Get Zoe’s content here..Life Isn’t About Finding Yourself

Jeb 04.20.09 at 8:11 pm

Yes, I think, actually, I’ve just realized something…why this whole business about goals isn’t sitting well with me. It feels like so many other procrastinations. Like they’re excuses not to get to it now. And I fucking hate that. It’s a wonder my head is still attached to my neck with all the energy and motivation I feel. But right there, right at that spot where the rubber hits the road, I slam the breaks and turn off the road. Or worse, do a U-turn. And I’m so tired of that. So tired. I’m ready to just hit the gas, come what may.

krissy 04.20.09 at 9:09 pm

i like the idea of being tarzan. swing from some vines and see where each one takes you. the momentum will take you places…all the while you’re enjoying the view and the sunshine on your face.

Get krissy’s content here..Saturday Send

Henie 04.20.09 at 9:29 pm

Jeb, Jeb, My dear Jeb! I just really love listening to your mind!:~)

“What matters most is the second you’re standing on!” ~Henie~ :~)

Maybe I’m too simplistic but it’s living in the moment, second to second…feel every moment like that moment when you’re swinging in a tire hanging from a tree limb or when you’re zooming-boarding one with the wind…

“Goals and dreams are added bonuses while you’re living moments!” ~Henie~ :~)

Get Henie’s content here..Sliver of Past

Jeb 04.21.09 at 3:42 am

That, Krissy, is a wonderful way of thinking about life. One of the things that draws me to the idea of living in the moment is its simplicity, the way I’m freed up to enjoy and appreciate what’s around me, what I have, rather than worry for what’s to come. I think some Tarzan time is in order right about now. I imagine the vines are there for the grabbing. :)

Jeb 04.21.09 at 3:46 am

I think maybe thats the key Henie…I need to skateboard more. :) As always, the trick is in the difference between knowing what to do, and doing what I know. It’s a struggle for me sometimes (like yesterday), but I’m working on it. Thank you for offering to lend a hand. :)

Lisa 04.21.09 at 8:12 am

This is an interesting topic I just spoke to someone about today by chance. Do we really need goals? Can’t we just live, without goals, without any formal plans or anything like that?

Yes, definately. But then we shouldn’t be surprised when we, at the end of the day, month, year, life, have the feeling that we didn’t get anywhere or improve in anything - even if it is “just” being a better parent or piano player. Feeling like we were only there for the ride, but never really reached a destination.

Goal setting not only helps you get your energies working in a specific direction, but it also gives you the chance to regularly give yourself positive feedback and feel good about yourself. If setting the smallest of goals and then reaching it is a potential ego stroke (Yeah! I went to the store and bought nothing but healthy foods!! Good for me!).

Life is all about feeling good about yourself and finding satisfaction. Satisfaction for me is really to be found in the feeling that I am developing and becoming “better” than I was the before. Goal setting is an integral part of this process and gives me the chance to see my progress - and the chance to regularly pat myself on the back and say “Well done”. Goodness knows we all need more of that.

Get Lisa’s content here..Tough Times

Jeb 04.21.09 at 10:50 am

Hi Lisa,
I do see your point, and agree with it. It’s not that I want to have zero goals, I guess I’m just questioning the logic of traditional goal setting. I’ve lived a significant portion of my life planning for the future, and this past year has all but wiped those plans away. So its given me cause to reflect on that strategy, and on what I’ve missed out on all the while.

I do have goals, things I expect of myself and want to achieve. But I don’t want to live by the ’sacrifice today so I can have a comfortable retirement’ dictum anymore. I think that amazing things can be accomplished by giving your absolute all to the moment you’re in. I think it opens us up to seeing opportunities that exist all around us that we’d likely miss were we mired in the ‘planning ahead’ approach to life. Hell yeah, take that trip, have that experience, be spontaneous…whatever the situation, accept it, do it. Say ‘Yes’ instead of ‘I better not’. And by walking down that road, maybe you meet the person that changes your life. Or have an experience that causes you to veer off course and pursue something totally new, totally you. Or get the opportunity to help somebody unexpectedly in a way that changes everything for them. Or maybe you just spend more time engrossed in your family, and these moments go on to represent all the difference in their lives as they grow and accomplish their own dreams as a result.

These are the moments I think I’ve let get away, and I need that to stop. I don’t think having no goals is the answer, but neither is being super goal-oriented. At least not for me. Seems a compromise is in order. Thank you for helping me think through it. :)

Lisa 04.21.09 at 12:53 pm

Oh yes. You said that so beautifully. The future is the moment, as the future will allways be a direct continuation of our focus and our focus determines our now. The more we allow our goals, both large and small, to become our now; in that we revel in their fulfillment now and hence already have all the joy they bring, the closer we move towards their physical realization.
It’s not reaching the goal that brings the satisfaction, it’s the joy of personal growth. It’s the joy of living those moments.

Get Lisa’s content here..Tough Times

Jeb 04.21.09 at 7:28 pm

So simple, but so elusive. I’m working on it, though. Promise. Thanks again Lisa.

Lisa 04.23.09 at 5:36 am

I’ve been thinking about this whole thing a lot lately and it occured to me that setting goals is not really about reaching the goal itself, but more about getting the feelings you attach to that goal (like having a certain position making you feel successful, or a certain relationship making you feel loved).

If you don’t realize this then the physical goal can take on a character and importance apart from the emotions. Then perhaps when you achieve it you may discover that it doesn’t bring you the desired emotions at all, and you ask yourself “Is this it?”. Or maybe something gets in the way of reaching your goal, like the economy, and you find yourself questioning whether or not to set any goals at all, because you have so little control of the outside world anyway.

And all the time it’s the emotions we’re after; the being happy, or being secure, or being loved, and not really the situation or circumstance we believe will cause this emotion.

If we understand what emotions we are going for, then we can begin to set steps to achieve those emotions from within, and not from without. These steps too are goals, but less material in nature. These kinds of inner-goals allow us a certain flexibility in setting material or achievement goals (buying a certain house, completing a degree) because they are superior to the material or achievement goals and are independent of them.

Setting and reaching these inner-goals makes it easier to reach the other goals because we become more open to everything around us, enjoy today a whole lot more and increase the amount of opportunities available to us.

I hope I didn’t say that too confusingly, I hope you know what I mean.

Get Lisa’s content here..Tough Times

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