Saturday, July 7, 2012

Goals can be distracting

Goals can be distracting
I've written a lot about goals and motivation, even the importance of summer goals, but lately it's occurred to me that goals are not really what it's all about.

One of my favorite quotes is from Lou Holtz:
"If you're bored with life - you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things - you don't have enough goals."
But are "goals" all you need? Maybe it's just the books I've been reading, but I've been feeling like I've been pushing goals for the sake of goals--on myself, my students, and my family. But what is the goal of my goals? If the goal of goals is happiness, then maybe I should revise Lou's famous quote:

"If you're bored with life - you don't get up every morning with a burning desire to do things - maybe you're chasing the wrong goals."
Motivation is important, and lack of motivation seems to be endemic among young people these days. And sure, you may drum up some motivation with pep talks and inspirational reading, but what's the point? What is the value of motivation if it doesn't lead anywhere of value.

So that has to be the first step: Decide where the value is. Find out what will make you happy/fulfilled. That thing is your goal. Now you have a goal worth pursuing. If we need to, we can do some motivational work, get you some skills, help you realize your ability to reach your goal so you don't get stuck, but the most important step has been taken.

"Goals" are not important, or even useful, in and of themselves, but only as means to the end which is happiness/fulfillment. So to heck with goals as goals, at least goals that have become detached from the real goal.

It's so easy to get sidetracked. My own internal compulsions toward achievement and false beliefs about myself, others and the world probably don't need the help of the constant media bombardment to keep me looking in the wrong places for fulfillment. I see something I think would be fulfilling, put it in my planner as a goal, and I'm off. Goals multiply until at some point I survey the scene and wonder who I got there and how I picked all of these goals that are taking up all of my time. 

I push my students, my kids, and myself, toward achievement, achievement, achievement. Achievement can be fulfilling, but it can also be a meaningless compulsion and distraction from the things that will really satisfy. 
Often in the back of my head a question gnawed as I delivered my motivational talks: But what if you're not interested in a Nobel Prize, or being the next Gandhi or Richard Branson?  What if you want to be a stay-at-home mom, a simple homesteader, or live in the woods like Thoreau?

You know what? Those low-key alternatives really sound more attractive to me right now. And that's because the high achievements--the goal-setters' goals, are not the only show in town, or even the best. And while great achievements can bring fulfillment, they may not. It depends on what you really want (as opposed to what you think you should want, or what a teacher or motivational speaker or ad tells you you should want). 

So for those of you who have listened to my talks or read my articles, I apologize if I have encouraged a proliferation of "goals" without meaning--goals-for-the-sake-of-goals, motivation-for-the-sake-of-motivation.

I still believe in goals, but only the right ones. Which ones are right for you? Good question. Chew on that for a while. Then let's talk about how to achieve them. I'll be doing some chewing of my own for a while.

Summer is a good time for goals, so here's mine: Reassess my belief about myself and what makes me happy. Then reassess my goals. De-clutter my planner--streamline it for happiness/fulfillment, with no sidetracks to meaningless achievements.