The tyranny of goals
“Life hack: Stop spending so much time looking for life hacks.”- Rex Huppke
It’s Sunday morning, and if you hate your job, this can be truly be the lowest point of your existence. Tomorrow’s Monday, the start of another week doing something you loathe, another week of your life wasted. Sunday evening, for many people, is truly a journey through hell, as they feel the minutes slip slip slipping away; so much pressure to enjoy, savor the weekend, but it’s hard to do anything under pressure, much less savor life.
If you’re in this situation, and you’ve decided to use today to Change your Life and Make Some Goals…excellent. I applaud your resolve. Just make sure that you’re setting goals that will actually help you, over time and hard effort, extricate yourself from this dire situation, instead of making goals that will eventually become their own form of torture and punishment. Self-loathing is, after all, a helluva drug.
Realistic, manageable goals are fantastic if they help you to, gradually, reclaim your sense of empowerment, make order of the chaos, and allow you to create the unique, evolving strategy necessary to change your life. That kind of realistic goal-setting is an art, and more power to you.
Unfortunately, many people, panicked and overwhelmed by a debilitating professional situation, will set larger-than-life goals, goals that are truly to big not to fail. Then, necessarily unable to achieve his or her (unrealistic) goals, he or she feels that the goals didn’t fail, they failed, they are doomed, they might as well give up….and the cycle of self-loathing, despair and fear begins all over again. The system works!
You can decide, for example, to set a goal that you will get a better job within one year, and resolve to do even one positive action every single day, starting small, and letting yourself build, organically, over time OR, you can, in a panic, decide you have to find a new job immediately, and frantically, simultaneously, try to revise your LinkedIn profile, update your resume (though even just looking at it, makes you want to cry), send out 3 cover letters and, when you don’t have a new job in 48 hours, give up, dissolve in tears and decide that you’re a total loser. One method will renew you, one will destroy you.
Listen, goals are great…in moderation. Ice cream is great…in moderation. But to truly achieve your goals, you have to set yourself attainable goals. You have to be honest with yourself, regarding your strengths and weaknesses, and understand yourself, thus enabling you to actually achieve your attainable goals. At the end of the day, you don’t need fancy apps, you don’t need a detailed, color-coded Excel spreadsheet, but you must take the time to know yourself, and learn to be honest with yourself. All the apps in the world won’t work, if you don’t. Goals can be liberating, and they can also be terrifying. It can be terrifying to truly achieve your goals. It can be terrifying to truly know your potential.
If this strikes a chord, rather than beat yourself up, maybe you should set a goal for yourself to currently have no goals. No goals, but the goal to get to know yourself. No goals, but the goal to forgive yourself. You have to like yourself, to truly be able to help yourself. You can set up the most intricate goals, with every time management tool and app known to humanity…or you can understand the person creating the goals, and thus understand why the goals are simultaneously so necessary and so hard.
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