Lately, I have many forks in the road to discern. Like you, there are some things I’d like to see transpire in my life. Dreams. Desires. Hopes. That kind of stuff, you know?
My past years have taught me that goal-setting is to be executed actively. Let me explain.
The normative logic of goal-setting follows as such: Achieve your goal(s) and you will be fulfilled. After all, this is the mainstream advertising style guide. They punch is in the eyeballs with thousands of ads every day telling us that the way we currently stand is not adequate and only when we achieve something using their help or acquiring something they have to offer will we be at ease and satisfied.
When we get sucked into this vortex, everything feels urgent. We dance on the verge of lunacy because we chase every goal down like a predator, thinking it’s necessary and beneficial. This is the result of passive goal setting.
The thorny aspect of this whole party is that the lure is masked as ambition. In the West, ambition is held high, even when it’s goofy. And so we goofy ourselves with goals.
Setting a lot of goals is easy. Having the awareness to only pursue the ones that matter is difficult.
Having a playbook on how we set and pursue goals can help prevent this whole rodeo of perpetual burn-out, sub-par work and deteriorating physical health.
I’ve group goals into three categories: Must-goals, want-goals and lust-goals. It’s a simple framework to arrange ourselves around the things that matter most.
These goals are important — you could argue they must happen. Performing well at work so you have money to pay rent and eat is a must-goal. If you’re married, being a loving husband or wife contributes to your emotional health, which is a must-goal. If you have kids, providing for them is a must-goal. These goals are usually clear as day. Must-goals should get the majority of your energy.
These goals support your must-goals and provide both pleasure and significance. For example, setting a goal to go to the gym four times a week to lose 15 pounds in 12 weeks could be a want-goal. The pleasure is losing the weight and feeling better about your body. The significance is that it gives you more energy, focus, and vitality to execute your must-goals at a higher level.
These goals are often sneaky distractions. For me personally, I’m in this lust-goal phase of wanting a 1985 VW Westfalia. This goal is blatantly weightless and is probably absurd. By labeling this as a lust-goal, it helps me prioritize myself on how much time and energy I devote to this goal. It’s not important for me to make this happen in my life right now. Rather than a “no,” it might simply be a “not yet.”
This little exercise of categorizing our goals can help us me make decisions about what goals we set and pursue. It doesn’t fool-proof us from making mistakes. But, it does provide a clarity that settles our nerves when decision-fatigue starts to creep in. It can help us stay focused on the things that matter.
No matter how many goals we hit, there is no finish line.
But we must remember that what we become along the way carries more weight than the outcome of the pursuit.