Five years ago I set out the following goals for myself:
- Have a nice cubicle job in the company I was the security guard for.
- Get over my depression.
- Stop being afraid of women.
- Get a girlfriend.
- Get in better shape.
- Move out from my parents.
Looking at it from one perspective, I have achieved them all! Swell! Now I have another reason to preach about how you should do that same.
Let’s side-track and look at Psychics for a second.
The reason that people believe in them is because of something called Confirmation Bias. When reading into someone’s past or talking to their dead relative, the gullible victim will focus on the few hits made by the Medium, while disregarding the misses along the way. It makes for even better TV when you add in some trick editing.
And that trick editing is exactly what goal-oriented people like me do. We talk about the goals that we have accomplished, while conveniently forgetting to mention the hundreds that have failed en route.
Five years ago, my real goals were:
- Start a successful business.
- Be wealthy by 30.
- Become a successful blogger, and start building a media empire.
- Not work a conventional job.
It would be much more impressive if those came true, but they didn’t. I looked back at the few things that kind-of worked, and was about to spin them off as proof of the divine power of goals.
But there is nothing sacred about goals. The very idea of having big life goals is an advent of the 19th and 20th Centuries, with the growth of the self help movement. Granted, there is much more opportunity today than there was hundreds of years ago, but are goals the only answer?
I recently heard that the Ancient Roman’s didn’t believe in goals, instead focusing on excellence. If you were a soldier, strive to be an exceptional soldier. Same as a philosopher, farmer, Senator. There is something satisfying in the notion that you can focus and pursue excellence.
But there are probably more options. The most gratifying moments in my life have come from being curious about something, and letting it absorb me without a set agenda. As James Altucher wrote, “ready, fire, aim.”