The problem with goal-setting

It’s a new year, and I am sure many of us would have already made our goals and resolutions for the coming year. While we assume goal-setting is right, it has its downsides too.

Whatever goals you arrive at, they are all in some way within the limitations of what you already know, or maybe a little exaggerated versions thereof. Is it not tragic to spend a whole year trying to achieve what you already know? My intention is things that you do not know should happen to you. Things that you have never imagined should enter your life. Only then will your life be truly enriched. What is the point of only doing things that you already know?

There was a time when you could be happy with one dollar. Now for the same happiness, you need a million dollars. That’s called inflation. That’s not enhancement of life. All that you do with life is create inflation. Inflation is neither good for the economy nor for your life. Now you are consciously causing inflation in your life – that is not an intelligent way to go about it. By setting time-bound goals, you may achieve a few things, but it will be of no consequence to the life that you are.

This is no different from how the caveman was, how hunters and gatherers were – “gather as much as you can.” On a material level, it looks different, but fundamentally, it is the same rudimentary thought of accumulating things. Anything that you gather, whether it is your knowledge, your wealth, your relationships, or whatever else, is only of value for the current transactions. If you keep it active, it will facilitate a few things for you. It has social consequence, but it has no life consequence. Instead of setting goals, it is best you find ways to nourish this life that you are. If you are nourishing this life, you only have to measure the growth.

Whatever goals we may set, on some level they are within the limitations of or exaggerated versions of what we already know. To get from where we are to where our goals are, we create tension, and it merely causes an inflation of existing things. The unwanted increase of current things can limit us from experiencing new things in life.

To simply live here goal-less is what a spiritual process is about. That does not mean being lethargic and lax. A spiritual process means to live in intense involvement with what is there right now but with no goal. If you have the courage to sit here in such a way – “Wherever the hell it goes tomorrow is fine with me, but right now I will do my best in whatever I am doing,” you will naturally be spiritual.

Life works best when we throw ourselves into doing things with absolute involvement without bothering what we gain out of it. Goal-setting ruins this element of life as it merely shows the means to an end. We must consider things as an end in itself by being more process-oriented and less goal-oriented.

Instead of setting goals for the whole year, just set this one thing: By the end of the day, you must be a little more joyful, a little more enhanced, a little better. This will not work as a goal – it is better to look at it in retrospect. This is not about you being joyful or peaceful. This is about you being conscious of as many aspects of your life as possible. You will do your best about whatever you are conscious of. Most of the nonsense happens because you are unconscious about so many things.

The real key to effective goal setting lies in developing a vision of how we want our lives to be.  If we would tell ourselves, “My only goal is to live a happier, healthier, more joyful and more loving life” – and actually mean it – we’d find that realizing this goal is as simple as making it the defining vision that guides our lives.  We would no longer need to concern ourselves with incremental, New Year’s Resolution style goals that don’t address our true character.  Instead, we would see our lives naturally moving towards the direction of our visions.

If you’re currently struggling to build your life around the tiny, fractious goals you believe will make you a better person in some way, just stop.  Stop worrying about whether or not the future you want is attainable based on where you are today and instead, set a clear vision for what you’d like your life to be.

That said, here’s another perspective on goal-setting.

Having goals is a pain in the neck.

If you don’t have a goal (a corporate goal, a market share goal, a personal career goal, an athletic goal…) then you can just do your best. You can take what comes. You can reprioritize on a regular basis. If you don’t have a goal, you never have to worry about missing it. If you don’t have a goal you don’t need nearly as many excuses, either.

Not having a goal lets you make a ruckus, or have more fun, or spend time doing what matters right now, which is, after all, the moment in which you are living.

The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run.

It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.

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