Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Importance of Goals

I was planning to organize my goals into a list... I just never got around to it...

Why is goal setting important


  • Create a framework within which we can organize our lives.
  • Create a context in which we can understand how events in our lives relate to one another.
  • Allow us to harness our personal energy (and the energy of the universe) to reach a desired end (not by chance but intentionally).
  • Move us from the random to the intentional.
  • Help us to choose between conflicting options and to apply resources selectively, pragmatically.
  • Allow us to chart our progress and work toward closing the gap.
  • Allow us to have a clearer picture of ourselves and of our successes, and help us to take a stand against the rigid (and incorrect) messages of powerlessness that some of us carry by helping us to see how far we have come.
  • Give our lives purpose and direction.
  • Organize energy; and energy (like water) flows along the path of least resistance. Establishing goals is like creating a pathway through which energy or intention can flow.
  • The process of setting goals helps us to actually define what we want and the direction in which we want to head. It moves us from the passive to the active. From audience to actor.
  • Goals motivate us.
Does everyone need goals?

At its most basic, a goal is a stated need or want. Every human baby is born with an innate, hard-wired ability to awarely track and communicate their desires. When a baby experiences hunger, for example, she or he cries.  In this instance, the goal of crying is to communicate to mommy or daddy that the little one is hungry and needs to be fed. That is certainly not the only reason a baby might cry, but it is a fairly common one. The baby does not need to be taught what hunger is, nor does he ever need to be told “when you feel hungry cry so that mommy knows to feed you.” Baby does this instinctively. Of course, Baby is an extraordinarily quick learner, so if she does this once or twice and it works out, then she will have verified her instinct. If things don’t go so well, she will learn other lessons and over time develop alternative strategies.

As we learn and grow and experience more of life, our needs and desires become more nuanced, more complex, more specific. (“I am hungry... for pizza not spinach.”) But the mechanism that leads us to instinctively want to communicate and have our needs met remains. At some point, as we learn to take mastery over ourselves, our lives, the environment in which we live, we begin to take gratification at meeting our own needs or the needs of those around us (i.e. our own children.) Ultimately, we are able to derive great pleasure in using our intelligence to reshape the universe around us according to our personal vision.

When we are children, we are predisposed to have big dreams. In part, we have not yet fully learned the concept of “practical realities.” But, more importantly, we haven’t internalized limitations on our personal power. Of course, surviving in an imperfect world requires a certain amount of reality checking. Most children learn over time to manage the bulk of their feelings, and to communicate their “acceptable” needs in ways that maximize the chances of their being successfully fulfilled. Unfortunately, by the time we reach maturity, most of us have learned these lessons a little too well.

Again, this is understandable. Our parents and teachers, while well-meaning in most cases, had limited resources and were not able to always provide for our every desire. We learned to manage what must have been crushing disappointment the first couple of times we did not get what we wanted by teaching ourselves to want less, to have smaller horizons. But the full expression of one’s humanness requires a large horizon. It demands that we dream big and then strive to fulfill these dreams.

Goals help us to imbue our lives with a sense of purpose and direction. 2,400 years ago, Aristotle wrote something along the lines of: the definition of happiness is having the chance to pursue a set of goals of one’s own choosing.

It occurs to me that Aristotle might have been talking more about fulfillment than happiness. But it would be hard to argue that happiness and fulfillment were not intimately linked.

From the Zone...


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