The Opposite of Goal Setting

Relief doesn’t make for a very compelling mission. Yet, to a certain degree, it’s what we’re all after. Waging war with health, time, loneliness, fear and suffering, the shit can get exhausting. And for me throughout my twenties, it was exactly how I was feeling.

In college, I was an unabashed conduit of Axe body spray and cargo shorts. Which in reality, showed up as both exceptionally utilitarian and painfully ordinary. Anxious to discover a niche, a differentiation of sorts, I began to try on various personas. “Hell, I don’t know anybody here. What’s the difference?”

After a couple futile attempts at forging a compelling personality, I found solace in being “success-driven” — much to the chagrin of the Internet, for the line was long enough as it was. I read books, listened to tapes, and promoted heavily my interest in becoming a bonafide leader with a bonafide purpose in life — to acquire wealth and security by means of self-promotion.

Such as anything in life, my journey began with excitement and intrigue as I anxiously awaited installing my newfound strategies into my Rolodex of rituals. Some results came, perhaps too quickly, leading me down the infernal blind alley of setting expectations. All that came thereafter, was always too little and always too late.

Far too often, we put our lives on hold. We set goals and tell ourselves things will commence when we reach the particular checkpoint. Unconscious to the grip socialization has on our plans, crowdsourcing shapes our personal narrative. Apart from the eccentric trailblazers, much of what we’re after in life isn’t based on our own original thoughts or ideas. Most of the time, it’s to do just well enough to fly under the radar and live quietly, unhindered by external ridicule or internal jockeying. In short, what we’re after is relief.

Relief from the judgment of not finishing college. Relief from strain that financial difficulty has placed upon the household. Relief from the incessant comparison to Ms. Susan’s family down the street. We just want a break from it all. The discomfort, the struggle, the insecurity, the apprehension.

Unfortunately, this is road to nowhere. It is a peak never reached. Our human psyche has no concept of measurement, for every time we arrive at the summit, we’re realizing there’s another stop left to go. This quest gives us purpose, but very little satisfaction.

So how do you combat this? I’ll put it to you simply. Enough with the goals. Enough with the targets. Enough with the metrics, the stats, the figures. Ignore them all. You’ll free up copious amounts of head space to focus on what’s most important. And it’s damn sure not your goals.

As I referenced before, we’re all battling the same demons. Our relationship with time, fear, loneliness, suffering, all stands a chance to rob us of everything in one fell swoop. When the bell tolls for me, I certainly don’t want to be on my way to achieving a goal. Fuck that. I want to do doing something I love.

Yes, love will set you free. To sound overly-cliche, the moments you choose to treasure will fill your heart with gold. And at the end of the day, it’s our heart we choose to protect to the highest degree. Highlighted by our defensive posturing and tight-lipped nature, we spend most all our energy raising awareness of what to avoid instead of what to approach.

We don’t get a lot of moments. When it’s all said and done, we will be forgotten. We get a trailer, get a movie, and we get credits. That’s it. We can do our best to make our future counterparts have to work hard to ignore our legacy, but eventually we’ll all go down in history. And while that may seem bleak, it’s equally as inviting for all the same reasons.

This is a clean slate. A blank canvas. A chance to try that weird color fuchsia that doesn’t go with anything. None of this shit’s going to matter on its own volition. We either make it matter, or we don’t. So whatever lights you up (and hopefully others), do more of that.

And no, I’m not an uninformed charlatan. I know you have bills. Jobs are important. I have one myself. But choose something you don’t have to wade through to get to the more moments you cherish. And if you must have a goal, make your goal to incrementally increase the amount of moments you experience each day that you can truly love.

But your goal is still a frame of reference. So I suggest you drop it. Stop planning and start feeling. I implore you, let’s not be reckless— I’d like to see you stick around to see a few more Olympics. But apart from the general considerations of being a decent human being, sprint towards loving every second of it.

Yes, you’re going to have to suspend judgments, let go of attachments, and override your conditioning to pull this off. But in reality, all we have to lose is our focus on something that isn’t even here yet. Freeing ourselves up to focus on what is.

Relish in the hard spots, for they will make your zenith more euphoric. Be nice to people, for together you can transform an ordinary encounter into an apex of fulfillment. Acknowledge yourself, for you are your only travel companion throughout eternity. And there will never be another. That’s your power.

In closing, I encourage you to get off your phone, or whatever device you’re reading this on, and tell someone you love them. Go do something you love. Find peace in this moment, even if you just realized you forgot to submit your weekly report. It’s going to be okay.

Take the focus off the goals for a second and be here right now.

There’s peace for the taking. You just have to look.