The game of goal setting is a choice. Instead of leaving your future to the whims of nature, you create your own course and chase an ideal outcome.
As Hunter S. Thompson advised: “a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”
Choice, however, does not make the road more predictable.
Setting out a degree of chance and failure is a good thing. Losing one dream often redirects you into other adventures. Success is a corollary to effort, although you must be confidently blind hoping everything works out in the end.
Nothing is stopping you from calling it a day, cease thinking for yourself, and pursuing absolutes. Every school wants obedient students.
But human beings are hardwired to seek meaning, to go beyond the foundation and stretch the imagination. To play servant to autopilot is the cousin of death.
When open enough, optimistic, and thinking a bit different, you’d be surprised at how often your ambitions boomerang back into your life.
Every advance reveals a new shortcoming. Your job is to endure the lows and optimize the highs to achieve apositive slopewithin the jaggedness of the messy middle — so that, on average, every low is less low than the one before it, and every subsequent high is a little higher.
“There is a positive correlation between the fear of death and the sense of unlived life,” writes Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote.
Futuring is a tough business. We toggle between our present number of choices along with desires and goals that reinforce the prioritization of time.
Knowing that we can’t do it all, most people reach for what’s most immediately accessible and end up regretting about what could be. They stifle themselves in exchange for feeling ‘safe.’
For others, death compels action. Their gut instinct refuses to accept standing still and succumb to mediocrity. Yet, their expedition may incorrectly rest in jealousy, a fear of missing out, rather than chasing a purpose.
Faith in the unseen
Our vocation chooses us. We grade our impact by how much we cling to that sense of priority rather than chasing other people’s dreams.
In reality, there is nothing out there that will make us fulfilled forever. But the attempt to cultivate happiness by pursuing what’s meaningful remains a noble attempt to maximize our time on Earth.
We all start out with a dream, a goal of someone or something we want to emulate. We keep that dream close, putting up bedroom posters and memorizing phrases that propel us to keep pushing toward our goal.
But then something else happens along the way? The creative gods tell us to do something else instead.
“The grind is not glamorous.”
Casey Neistat wanted to be a filmmaker, another Spielberg that entertained the masses. But he didn’t have enough money nor resources. So he chased the dream for ten years and succeeded: he entered Cannes and won some awards etc. until one day he realized he was pursuing the wrong end. “Fuck it,” he said. “I just want to make internet videos.”
See, when we hunt down goals, we usually get redirected to something else that’s more personal. Technology broke down all the barriers to traditional creativity, production, and distribution. YouTube is Neistat’s movie theater.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself
Sure, imitate at first and get really good — everything is practice. But we shouldn’t forget to reflect and dive deeper into a passion that excites us the most. As Jim Carrey said, ‘your vocation chooses you.’
Don’t fight what’s natural even if no one else is doing it yet. Give in to the original inclinations and push onward.
Finally a new year, with more conviction this time.
Writes Gary Lachlan in The Caretakers of the Cosmos: “Without goals, without some purposeful anticipation, we live, Frankl said, only a ‘provisional existence’, a kind of marking time which is really a death in life.”
In the game of goal setting, all beliefs are gambles.
When we let what we’re scared of drive our decision-making, we seek safety which mostly means inaction. Like algae, we prefer to stay local, isolated from the from the sun that feeds us with its light.
So how can we get where we want to go when a constant state of dread lies in our way?
When stuck in doubt, heed the words of Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” The amygdala exaggerates our anxieties.
If we’re courageous enough, we’ll say yes and do it anyway.
You don’t work better under pressure. It only feels that way because you have no other choice.
Procrastination has negative emotional consequences. We spend more time fretting about getting something done than actually doing it. The action is never is nearly as bad as the anticipation.
Whatever your philosophy of getting started is – taking small steps, performing little actions, bird by bird – you must develop a habit of starting now. Habits undermine procrastination by overwriting the conscious decision-making process.
If you want to predict your future, scan the collection of moments from the present to the past.
Presumably, there are some things you want to change going forward in the new year. But the want is usually temporary; passion ebbs after the initial boost of interest.
The game of goal setting is tricky. Most people start too high and end up quitting. One way to counter high expectations is lowering the target to make it feel like you’re winning. Do three sets of one push-up instead of five. Run for half a minute. Read for 3 minutes. Do whatever it takes to rev up the emotional engine of accomplishment.
You are improvable. You care. This is why you have goals in the first place. A mind focused on progress defeats the stress of perfection. If you can remain consistent–maybe even a little excited–everything will take care of itself.
Life is not a journey. A journey assumes an end point. A journey prepares for the future and precludes living and playing in the present.
Life only looks linear because that’s the way it’s been set up. We go from elementary school, high school, college, and then go into the workforce where we get trapped and continue to reduce ourselves to lemmings. Instead of going on a journey with a destination, dance with the moment and enjoy the progress it takes to get there.
“The physical universe is basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination that it ought to arrive at. But it is best understood by its analogy to music. Because music as an art form is essentially playful. We say you play the piano, you don’t work the piano.” — Alan Watts
Half-ass efforts produce half-ass results. The same goes for 99 percent effort. If you don’t commit 100 percent to whatever it is–quitting smoking, writing a book, taking photography seriously–it’s going to fall to the wayside.
What do you tend to? What is your one non-negotiable that you do every day regardless of the circumstances. I publish a blog post each day, even if it’s trash. But who cares; I shipped! When I was a kid, the daily habit was basketball. Rain or shine or below freezing temperatures I was outside shooting hoops or at least dribbling in the garage. The dedication paid off in games.
Worrying about getting something done is far worse than than the actual doing. So make a promise to yourself to win at one thing every day. Once you get started, anticipation fades into the background; now, you’ve got no choice but to do it. When you do the work, the rest follows. Action first. Deduce later.
Give it 100 percent. Don’t overthink it. Go all in. And start before you’re ready.
Making backup plans can backlash. Why? Because knowing we can fall back on something else makes it acceptable to half-ass the effort and fail without giving it our best shot.
“But the practical advice we would give is more nuanced than that. We’re not suggesting that you always avoid making backup plans. But maybe you could hold off on doing so until you’ve put as much effort as possible into your primary goal.”
Humans cope with anxiety by seeking certainty. Too often, we let the lizard brain get in the way of our dreams. So instead of writing the book, we just fall in love with the idea.
“People usually can’t differentiate what they really love and what they love the idea of.” – Brianna Weist
Pursuing safety is a short-term plan with long-term consequences. You may die with regret knowing that you never tried to scratch the itch.
“For some people, not making a backup plan might indeed be beneficial in helping them put their best effort forward”
There’s only one plan. If all fails, at least you will be farther along than when you started.