Your Goals Are Just Mile-markers In Your Journey

22 July 2012, by A. Cedilla

You have a plan.

You have a lot of plans.

Some of them may have fallen through, but you pride yourself on being able to adapt when it’s needed, and you’ve adjusted quickly.

You power on, executing task after task, action after action. Your planner is full of crossed-out action items on your To-Do lists.

You have a goal.

You have a lot of goals, and because of your persistence and determination, you meet most of them, and surpassed a few.

So, how are you feeling right now? Top o’ the world, living a so-so existence, or struggling to keep your head above water?

If you did everything right, where did it go wrong?

It’s not you. Things just happen.
Schools train us to function in a structured environment. That’s why we love making plans and setting goals,they give us a familiar sense of structure and control.

From getting a gold star to getting named valedictorian and snagging a scholarship with your stellar GPA and extra-curriculars, school teaches us that if we plan and we set targets, when we attain them we will be successes. But that isn’t always the case. Things just happen. Things beyond our control.

 

Life isn’t about numbers.
Your goals are just the mile markers along the road: this much saved, that much spent, so much accumulated, sold, reached — whether it’s push-ups done, calories taken, sales made, miles run, titles acquired.

Sometimes we can get so fixated on reaching the goal, come time we get it, we have no clear idea how we got there. We miss the deep learning and the appreciation for our own capabilities. It’s a joyless grind.

It’s akin to cramming to take a test. We hurriedly stuff ourselves with information, regurgitating it at the exam. After that, we do a brain dump and go do something fun.

Cramming in this context is an immature habit to develop. In certain situation where you really don’t have the time, sure, but as a habit, it’s terrible. It’s like junk food for the brain. You feed it, then an hour later, it’s empty. You barely remember a thing.

Can you imagine looking back on a year of your life, on years of your life, and not remembering anything that stands out?

“The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
Lily Tomlin

I’m not throwing planning and goal setting out the the window here. I’m just asking to think about easing on the brakes.

When you feel like a mouse on a treadmill (or whatever else you want to call those exercise-wheels for various small rodentia) it’s time to stop and remember what you are doing all of that for. Life is a journey from birth to death, but you have to stop and take note of what’s going on on a regular basis.

  • You might not like where your current lifestyle is taking you.
  • You might be letting important relationships take a backseat.
  • You might be doing stuff for surface reasons, and feeling the dissonance manifest in stress-related symptoms, like chronic back pain, stomach issues, or depression.

Enjoy the ride.
When people look back at their accomplishments, what makes the most important ones stand out aren’t the numbers, but the memories associated with reaching their goals.

It isn’t always, “Oh, I made X thousand in sales this month,” but “Damn, a few years ago I was living in my car, and now I’m making bank!”

Maybe it’s even going against everything your tormentors said about you. “Ha, look at me now!”

 

In the rush to get somewhere, do things, be somebody, it’s pitifully easy to lose sight of the small graces that we encounter on the way. We take people and things for granted. Maybe it’s about time you rethink the way you’ve been doing things. It couldn’t hurt, you know?

  • Practice being aware. Take regular breaks to remember who you are and what you already have. Maybe try meditation. Or regular walks. What ever helps you unclench and look, really look, at the life around you and your part in it.
  • Develop a habit of appreciation. For everything that drops into your life and makes it better. Even the small things, like having someone keeping the door open for you instead of letting it slam in your face (and I hope you remember to pass the kindness on).
  • Appreciate your body. It’s the only one you’ll have until you die, so take care of it. Feed it well and take it out for walks everyday. Make sure it gets enough downtime.
  • Take care of your relationships. Before the thing called retirement was created, people worked until they were physically incapable. Then all they had were the fruits of their labor, the work of their hands, and the relationships they nurtured.

The economic shock-wave that toppled institutions we thought were untouchable and whose ripples are still being felt today showed us just how precariously things are balanced.

We don’t trust easily anymore, and that’s why we have to invest in the important things, the things that give meaning to our lives, and relationships are certainly a big part of all that. Your relationship with your loved ones, friends and family, with your community, and especially yourself. Don’t let those things fade into the background of your life. Enjoy the whole journey.

Recommended reading: Goals are Overrated (Justine Musk)

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