Why I’m Giving Up Goals

Photo: Simon Migaj

I’ve been the biggest advocate of goals for as long as I can remember. Since university forced me to rather painfully and gracelessly discover the importance of self-motivation, I’ve been setting goals of all kinds. Grand five year goals, small get-out-of-bed-on-time goals, weight loss goals and finance goals, happiness and self-improvement goals.

Well, now I’m setting myself the goal of giving up setting goals.

I don’t know about you, but when I set goals I try to aim high. “Shoot for the sun and you might hit the moon”. Only trouble is, I stand up there on the moon and can only see how far away that damn sun is. I forget how far I’ve come and feel like a miserable failure for not making it all the way.

I also have a habit of generally falling just a little short, no matter how high or low I aim. My enthusiasm for achieving my goals usually looks a little like this:

In the beginning we’re sustained by novelty. Then the crash- where most goals go to die. But when we keep at it, we start to see results. Great! But once there are results, is it worth the continued misery? Or do we already have enough of what we wanted? In a bid to find renewed enthusiasm, we set new goals. And the ‘aspire->fail’ cycle begins again.

However, when you make peace with where you are stop trying so damn hard to be better, a weird thing happens.

You stop beating yourself up and you start getting better.

Each thing done is an achievement in its own right that you can celebrate and feel good about. That good feeling encourages you to do it again. You enjoy the process without freaking out about the result.

High expectations (and in particular, failure to fulfill them) are responsible for so much misery in life. I make a point of not expecting anything from others or from the world, and counting everything I receive as a gift. Well, now I’m extending that same philosophy to myself.

Self-hatred can be a powerful motivator for some, but not for everyone. Self-hatred is the surest thing to lead me off my path. I’ll be practicing self-congratulation instead, each rewarding task a gift to myself.

I have a feeling I’ll be getting far more done than had I set militant goals. I dare you to try the same.