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Goal-setting alone goes nowhere

This is an angry blog-post, fuelled by failure and feeling lost.
Trying to “get what you want” and “achieve goals” has driven me mad.
At the age of 35, I’ve had enough.

It may have started with my parents, who either pushed me towards goals or didn’t stop me from my own endless pursuit of the achievement of goals. It continued in school, where top grades were sought out for no reason but their own apparent top-grade value. And since day one in the corporate world, it has been shoved down my throat by Covey-inspired managers …and later reinforced by performance bonuses and general back-slapping. It hasn’t stopped. Goal, goal, goal. Do, do, do. Achieve, achieve, achieve.

But in a world where it is “good” to achieve targets, I fear that this achievement itself has become some kind of altar at which people like me pray. But where is the god of purpose for which this altar was erected? Without that, the prayer of achievement loses all sense.

 

When you get into the process (and life) of setting goals and achieving targets, it is fun. You can put ticks in boxes and say “I succeeded”. If you have an app like “Lift” you can share your goals and your success with other people, who will congratulate you for being like them and achieving what you all set out to do.

But I wonder how many people installed “Lift” and did like I did, just browsing though the habits and goals to choose from and picking things that sounded cool, then setting their goals? Or sat down on New Year’s Eve (or performance-review day) and asked themselves “What goal can I have for next year?” Like an achiever’s buffet-bar. Eat all you can.

In my own case, with the “Lift” app, it would surely have been better to actually have a real goal in mind (or better yet, some sense of purpose) before downloading the app and then use it’s social reinforcement mechanisms to help me get it done. But that’s not what I did. I heard about an app that let’s you share and track goals and thought it would be “good” just because it helps you share and track goals and because that is in itself a “good thing”. I think I am obsessed with (or at the very least, attached to) achieving. And apps that help you achieve are “good”. But what am I actually achieving? What is it all working towards?

 

And so I write this angry post: Goal-setting and achieving targets is bad. Dangerous. Goal-setting should be a means to a purposeful end, but for workaholic, other-oriented, self-esteem-seeking people like myself, it becomes the end in itself. And it is an end which goes nowhere when you lack any sense of what is “good” or purposeful outside of the goal itself.

 

As of today, instead of setting goals outside of myself for things to get, be or do I am going rather to focus on looking inside and stripping away everything I don’t want to get, be or do. I have always been told that I should create smart goals that are positive and focus on what I want to achieve. But since I now reject goals and don’t really know what I want to achieve, I will just be negative. I will instead focus on what I don’t want and just see where that takes me. Instead of trying to make a pretty garden with no clear vision of what “pretty” is, I am just going to focus on pulling out the weeds.

 

Maybe when everything is stripped bare and I’m left with nothing to be, have, do or achieve, I’ll know who I really am, what I really want and what can be done.

I suspect that then I will probably no longer care about goal-setting and achievement.

Just the garden itself.