He knows himself greatly who never opposes his geniusWilliam Blake
I’m writing today to see if I can add something to the ongoing discussions people have around goal setting and achievement.
I’m basing this post on my own experience of pursuing various goals at various stages. I have experienced hits and misses based on my skills, temperament, and the different strategies I took.
Here is one thing I have learned:
When we make goals, it is supremely important that we have total clarity around how we define our terms.
Most often, goals are set based on external things. An external goal means we want to make something of ourselves in the world.
“I want to write a bestseller” is a prime example of this.
Or “I want my book in bookstores.”
OK, then what?
I mean, have whatever goals you want. If that goal really speaks to your gut, then see what happens when you get it.
For me, it has been a problem to have goals founded on comparisons, goals that say, if I have that, then I will be happy. If I can prove X, then I deserve Y.
And too often, people set high goals that they don’t actually believe they are capable of achieving. The act of goal setting becomes a weird way of supporting how they should feel like a failure.
Goals should be precise and offer a matter-of-fact pathway requiring no luck or guesswork.
I don’t believe goals should be about accepting other people’s definitions.
“If I see my book in a physical bookstore, then I will finally be able to feel like I’m a writer.”
For me, that is just such a closed outcome. I want to set a goal that nourishes and challenges me each step of the way, not only when I achieve it. That goal presumes that I have the ability to alter my self-definition and choose to feel like a writer. So why would I want to wait to feel that?
Another reason why I don’t find it fruitful to stake positive self definitions after you achieve a goal is that doing so overrides the actual experience. It’s just as possible that when you achieve that goal, it will feel empty, or not like it should, or way worse. Or, OK, maybe it will be way better. Or maybe you’ll feel like a fraud. You’ll say, “Ah, the amount of marketing and promotion I had to do to get this… that’s not what a real author has to do.”
You’ll achieve the goal but miss the point completely. Life continues like an extremely ambitious hamster wheel.
I have experienced this. I don’t want to do that ever again. I wouldn’t wish for anyone else to persist in any similar delusion.
As much as possible, we should be clear on the definitions we use.
I want a goal that brings me closer to clarity about who I am and what I’m doing.
Your purpose = what actually happens
I’m not suggesting that is true, but it’s something that I am trying on these days. It has been interesting.
I can say “my purpose is to be a beloved author and impactful mentor,” and I mean it, and it does something for me to have that clarity of trajectory.
But what about the deathbed test for that goal?
When I hold this purpose up to the light in that life-or-death scrutiny which is not scrutiny but really a humbling perspective, things shift.
What does a person do with goals when they’re on their deathbed?
Here’s my sense: It’s more about who I am in the sense of what do I choose to do to awaken and transform myself?
I suppose there is a lot to be said about karma and the things I do being helpful for others.
I’d like to be a force for positive change. A light in the world. To aid in the enlightenment of others.
And to acknowledge the day to day stuff as a part of the picture, not just the social media version of reality.
But more important is that I actually feel all that. No list or checkbox or pat on the back comes close to the actual feeling.
So the suggestion is to adopt some big ways of thinking big.
Beyond my capacity, outside my comfort zone.
Big in the sense of me really showing up as myself. Blasting apart whatever blocks are there. Setting aside other people’s rules for a successful life and actually being me. In the big, big, big picture. Not just me as a writer or as a mentor or in any other capacity. But myself beyond any definable sense other than the ineffable present one as it unfolds into the future.
To feel the challenge of being who I actually am as much as possible. To have the courage to offer myself to the practices that I do and the people I engage with. To offer the truth of my spontaneity.
To not need to be seen any certain way, but to feel what is really present. To grow my ability to feel and perceive and see and create.