Why your goals are missing the mark

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We’re at that fun age of parenthood, with our 9 year old flip-flopping her answers like a campaigning politician.

“A fashion designer.”

“A dancer.”

“An artist.”

Thankfully we’ve diligently shielded her from social media. (Well, technically we watch TikTok together 6 minutes each day.)

Long gone are the days of being an astronaut, firefighter or veterinarian.

A 2019 poll found that 30% of UK children wanted to be YouTubers.

Another poll showed that 25% of Gen Zs want to be “social media influencers.”

Now the allure of Internet clout and thought leadership are undeniable.

But you, dear reader, think about what YOU want to be.

(Actually take 30 seconds to think about it.)

Does your answer include kind, healthy, generous, wise and happy?

And herein lies the conundrum of goals.

What you want to do vs. who you want to be

There’s a lot of debate around the worthiness of goals.

The pro-goals group says things like:

If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.

Steven Covey

Goals orient us, they focus our energy and keep us accountable towards an end result.

So if you want to be a social media influencer – metrics such as followers, likes and sponsors will tell you if you’re on the right track.

The anti-goals group makes the argument that goals are an unrelenting source of frustration. Here’s the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer:

If the desire is fulfilled, then soon fulfillment gives way to ennui.
And if the desire goes unfulfilled, then one feels frustrated.
Therefore, all ordinary desires lead either to ennui or to frustration.

(And if you’re not familiar with French, ennui is a fancy way of saying boredom.)

So where do we go from here?

There are 2 types of goals

Imagine you want to bring some friends together for a dinner party.

That’s a very clear goal for the evening: Prepare a dope dinner.

So you run to Trader Joe’s to prepare your cheese plate, grab some limes and Casamigos for the skinnies and last (but certainly not least) the mini ice-cream cones.

The hierarchy becomes pretty clear:

The Tasks roll up to a Do Goal (or a Project). Once the dinner is complete, the Project is done and we move on with our lives.

But you can quickly see how this paints an incomplete picture.

We’re human BE-ings, not human DO-ings

In the pursuit of Do Goals, we’re missing the why.

So our gracious host needs to ponder:

Why do I want to organize a dope dinner?

The question that naturally ensues is:

Who do I want to be?

A dope dinner is fun, but it’s part of the larger tapestry of why you exist on this earth.

Is it to spread joy and laughs over great food?

Is it to manifest your creativity in the kitchen?

Is it to strengthen the bonds of family and community?

Is it to create a vessel for your infinite love?

The dope dinner is in service to one (or more) of these Be Goals. So let’s redo our pyramid:

And here’s the great news. If you want to be someone who spreads joy and laughs, there are so many ways to do it. You could:

  • Send silly messages to your friends on their birthdays
  • Organize a post-work group run (with post-run beers)
  • Create a digital community around your interests
  • Challenge yourself in a stand-up comedy course.

A Be Goal sets you up for so many more possibility of what you’re capable of doing.

Furthermore, Do Goals are the precursors to Be Goals.

Be Goals are tricky since they “never end”

As we march through life on the corporate (or hedonic) treadmill, it’s very easy to lose sight of our Be Goals. (Or even worse, never actually considered them).

You may want to be happy, but never considered what that actually looks like.

You may want to be a loving parent, but seem to always pick work over your kids.

You may want to be successful, but never examined the required trade-offs.

You may want to be rich, but have no grasp of what’s enough.

Even if you’ve defined your Be Goals, it’s a challenge to live them each day.

You can’t check-off “Be a loving dad” from your to-do list. So it becomes hard to know when the task started (yesterday). And when it ends (never).

Be Goals don’t set themselves up well for tracking, monitoring and recurring reminders.

You have live them and breathe ’em.

Every. Damn. Day.

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