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There’s nothing wrong with setting goals. Bruce Lee once said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim for.” It’s important though to be aware of developing any tunnel vision while striving towards goals. Focusing nearly exclusively on our goals can contribute to more easily ignoring – and blinding us to – the importance of other matters and situations. Some may even desire certain goals so intensely that they result to harm or neglect to achieve them. And if we construct an identity based on “our” goals, then cling to – and expect achievement of – those goals then any roadblocks and/or failures can amplify frustrations and unhappiness.
There’s also external downsides. If our goals are known publicly, it is easier to influence, manipulate and incentivize our behavior by targeting those desires to further sometimes malignant agendas. For example, the rich and powerful may offer to help achieve your goal(s) more quickly in exchange for doing some of their dirty work. More insidious yet: offering up and promoting malicious goals to the public masses (by painting deceptive pictures of widespread acceptance; commonplaceness and/or currently established popular behavior without disclosing hidden purposes behind the offers and promotions.)
While setting goals it may be helpful to investigate the intent underlying each goal. Why is this goal important and worth the time and effort? [Keep asking this question for each answer you get until you get to the root, or can no longer answer.] From whom or where did this goal come from? What amount of lasting satisfaction will come from this goal? Is it helpful, wholesome, skillful and wise to automatically and continuously set goals (before and) after achieving a goal — frantically directing life from a goal-after-goal treadmill?
Obviously we all still need to take care of ourselves, pay the bills and be responsible. Perhaps superior non-goal-centric alternatives exist though. Like identifying (a handful of) core values — what’s really important in life — as a reference and guide for relationships and making choices. Life becomes satisfyingly smoother when our deepest and highest aspirations direct our energy, thinking, speaking, acting and lifestyle choices.
[Originally published elsewhere: August 24th, 2018]
A heart-centered article by Phillip Moffitt that includes goals and values as related to trust