Should We Set Goals, and If So, How?

By Ethan Maurice | December 7, 2015

We constantly hear how important goals are. To plan things out is synonymous with ambition and fulfillment in our culture. However, unnoticed by most, our obsession with goals in western society also has it's downfalls. Goals are a valuable tool for achievement, but are also a double-edged sword.

Here's an eye opening discussion of goals, between two of my favorite thinkers:

Why Goals Can Be Dangerous

1. We set a goal at a certain point in time. Goals are based upon who we are - our desires, values, and experiences - at that certain point in time. As time passes, we change; new experience and understanding molds who we are. Yet, the goal does not adapt. Thus, over time, goals can wilt as we get closer to them.

2. A goal is a destination. The satisfaction of reaching a goal is ever fleeting, for upon achieving a goal, our minds immediately find something else to desire and chase. Thus, goals inevitably lead towards a lack of appreciation of the present, overshadowed by focus on future desires.

3. Goals put blinders on us. When we set our sights on something, we often miss whatever else is going on around us. There are a limitless number of possible outcomes from every undertaking and focusing on only one positive outcome can blind us of potential others.

Why Goals Are Useful

It's important we don't completely bash goals here though. While in the discussion above, Leo advocates for eliminating goals, one must recognize that periodically examining our lives and setting goals for the future is hugely useful.

We must strike a balance between highly focused pursuit and total presence. Maybe even flip-flop between the two.

Over the summer of 2013, I pedaled a bicycle across the United States, raising nearly $100,000 for the hospital that saved my life. Preparations for such a fundraiser required immense planning, goal setting, and follow through. Without such ambitious fundraising goals and the set goal of riding across the entirety of the United States, we would not have raised a fraction of the money we did. Goals and a focused plan were necessary.

Contrary though, on the actual ride itself, we discovered that no planning was by far the best way to ride across the country. If the wind served, we rode further. In need of a rest day, we took one. A lack of planning and adaptability was essential.

How To Set Goals

Think of goal setting like stopping for two minutes to pull a map out on a hike. One looks around, figures out where they are, and which direction to head next.

The key is to use the map merely as a suggestion. If a deviating route offers a path to the top of an unexplored mountain or a superior trail is discovered along the way, one shouldn't hesitate to change course. For what's most important is not reaching the end of the trail one sets out upon, but enjoying the hike.

The same goes for goals. We must remain alert to other opportunities and positive outcomes along the way, not focusing on simply achieving the goal, but allowing all possible fruits to bare from the path the goal has set us upon.

Chart a bold course, just don't be too keen about following it.




Resonate with this? If so, I ask you to press one of the share buttons on your screen! I also invite you to connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.