Are goals worth it?

I have listened to the advice and read the self-improvement posts, books, and filed away my share of seminar workbooks. They preach a single sermon while the choir echoes the refrain.

  • Make goals.
  • Write them down.
  • Look at them.
  • Meet them.
  • Celebrate success.

I’ve done my share of making goals and even accomplished many of them.

I have always wrestled with a dilemma. There’s a critical bit of thinking missing from most “goal-setting.”

It ignores the danger of accomplishment.

Several years ago, I lost over 30 pounds of weight. It was satisfying to watch the dial on the scale to inch downward. Pants loosened. Compliments came. My knees quit hurting.

That sounds like success. There’s only one problem.

Once I reached my “goal,” I had permission to return to old habits. The weight ballooned, making it worse than when I started.

Nothing is as frustrating as a successful failure!

I met my goal, but I did not know what to do next.

It happens when you get a college degree. The haunting question returns once the sheepskin in hand and cap-and-gown pictures get snapped.

What now?

Goals fall short by stressing the “doing” and “finishing.”

I could blame goals. I could decide not to aim at anything but act in the moment. That never helps. Life drifts like a lost canoe paddle.

It wasn’t the goals, but the goal-setter. My only beef with goal pundits is what they don’t say.

Goals have destinations. The best aims are “becoming” aims. You never reach the end but always have something to pursue.

Goals must comprise the part of a larger picture. Planner or program checkboxes are but stepping stones toward something more significant. Once completed, I (and I suspect others) still need to do more.

Life is not about doing. There are plenty of activities, hacks, and accomplishments. You can occupy more than a dozen lifetimes completing the right forms, keeping your nose to the grindstone, and checking off the goal as FINISHED!!!

The old apostle Paul, writing from a prison cell had an overarching target of life. Be like Jesus in all things.

From a goal-setting perspective that is the recipe for failure. It’s not measurable or tangible. There’s no checkbox to tick.

The energy of life is the pursuit of something bigger than yourself. At his apex, he wrote a group of Christians in Philippi to give them his “goal update.”

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Paul did not focus on getting to a place but movement toward it.

Life is about becoming. Do not strive to reach goals but to become a person of worth. Goals help, but they are only assistants to the executive called self.

I still set goals, but now I have to ask, “What is this making of me?” I cannot check off that unfinished journey in my notebook. One day, the light of eternity will reveal it.

Don’t ever reach your destination, keep growing to what you are to become.