Feb 292008

If you’ve spent five minutes in personal development, you know how important goals are to achieve what you want. But that’s not what goals are really about. Goals are for:

  1. Having goals is super important for your psychological health. The field of Positive Psychology has found strong correlations with having goals and being happy, as well as psychologically healthy. Human beings are intensely goal-driven creatures. You have to be to survive in the natural world.
  2. Pursuing goals. I’m sure you’ve heard that the journey is more important than the destination. Similarly, modern psychology has found that we get a bigger kick out of making progress on goals than the short-lived feeling of accomplishment before we have to set another goal. Note, I’m not advocating consumerism as a substitute to personal fulfillment (the hedonism treadmill, or pleonexia), rather that goals on which you’re making progress are an important part of an enjoyable life.
  3. The change that going after and achieving those goals creates in you. Steve Pavlina likes to say that goals improve your level of consciousness and since you are simply a part of a larger single consciousness, you improve the level of consciousness in general by pursuing consciousness-raising goals. I realized that the change that happens because of goals is more important when I read this interview with Ze Frank:

What’s really interesting to me is that, as anyone knows who’s gone into a creative discipline, the second that you start doing those things, the world around you changes. If you draw, you start seeing the edges of things, and you start seeing the deformities of their shape when you move around them. When you start playing guitar, you start noticing notes in all the music you play, and in fact, the music that you listen to never sounds the same from that point on. I think that a lot of people are focusing on the content that’s being produced right now. And I think it’s the wrong thing to look at. It’s actually the pursuit and the perception change that I think a lot of people are experiencing about the world — that’s the thing to focus on and the thing to celebrate.

Marcel Proust said something similar when he said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

I’ve experienced a nice shift in the way I look at things now. Before, I used to think that some goals or doing some things wasn’t important because the final result will be useless or unimportant. I generally believe that the things I do should have an impact and I refrain from doing something that does not seem to have an impact on my goal (which is logical), but I take it to an extreme. For example, I don’t like to spend time preparing, preferring to wing it because no one really sees the preparation. This new model of goal achievement gives me a new perspective on preparation and how it changes ME, not just as a useful aid to getting goals. Not preparing is very much like trying to harvest in the fall without having planted in the spring.

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