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Goal Setting Is Bollocks To Me

Goal setting is very trendy these days, but I have a fundamental problem with how it’s taught. That it’s taught at all is a problem for me in fact.

Experts are everywhere providing goal setting advice to poor little you and me who can’t seem to make a reasonable attempt at life.

The internet is full of bullshit advice from people with fuck all life experience and even less ability to frame what they have in an original way that actually could help someone.

For me goal setting has been a largely counterproductive exercise. That’s not to say that I’ve not had benefit from the experience — I have. But rather it is that the structured processes that most “experts” would have you and me follow were useless.

So I don’t set goals any more, at least not how most say we should.

In fact the greatest successes I’ve had professionally and personally have come about by not goal setting at all. Every major positive life changing event that occurred in my life did so all on it’s own without any conscious effort from me.

What I’m trying to say is there can be enormous benefit (and usually is) from just doing shit for the sake of it — no agenda attached.

It’s an old saying and a very true one.

But how much do we actually think about the meaning of this common saying?

Not too often me thinks.

We get caught up in the fast pace of modern living, striving for a future that never gets here and almost kill ourselves every day trying to reach it.

And we do, eventually, kill ourselves that is. But it’s what happens in between is what really matters.

Yes we’ve all heard it before… we sacrifice those things that are most important to us for the sake of some imaginary future, right?

Or if not a future, then some notion of right and wrong or sense of duty to someone or something like a job or a boss that really don’t give two fucks about us.

I can honestly say that I have (and still do to a lesser extent), put aside most things I care about including my family and friends for commercial gain.

Thankfully I figured things out before I reached the point where I couldn’t do anything about it. I copped myself on and made some changes.

Or was it that circumstance forced me to change? I can’t decide which.

Either way the shit hit the fan in a big way and most things fell apart. Fortunately my family and home life held together (just about).

Through all of that craziness which lasted 7 or 8 years I began to question the whole setting goals thing. You see working hard to get more stuff or success or whatever never really worked for me.

I had the greatest success when I just went for it — acted on impulse so to speak.

Money was never a problem in the early days, new business just came in. I was happy most of the time and things on reflection were going really well.

It was only when I started to set goals did things begin to fall asunder.

Now that scenario is not the same for everyone, plenty of people set goals and hit them all the time.

But I know I’m not on my own in this because people I’ve met and become good friends with have had the same experience that I’ve had.

On reflection, maybe it was other people’s goals I was setting.

Maybe I wasn’t moving from the right place, or attached too much value to material things.

Or maybe I was just pushing too hard.

Who fucking cares anyway, those days are gone now thank God. However, as uncomfortable and all as they were I have to thank them for the benefit of the experience.

In a weird kind of way I’m glad things went down as they did.

I’ve discussed the illusion of time here before, and I am in no doubt about it’s lack of reality. However, I still wonder how to reconcile setting goals and there being no future.

I know that “Tomorrow” or “The Future” is only an idea, a concept. It has no fundamental reality of it’s own, but I’m still a little bit tied to it.

How can I set goals given what I know now about reality?

In this part of the world we are taught the Newtonian notion of cause and effect — It’s buried in our psyche.

But what if that’s wrong?

What if we have it in reverse and the effects create the causes?

Look at it this way — when we look back to examine why a particular event took place, only then do we assign the cause. We analyse prior events and assign them to the effects.

We cast a critical eye over our experiences and cherry pick particular instances that serve our idea of why that key event occurred.

There are in reality an infinite number of micro and macro events all tied together in a single happening leading up to that key event.

It’s why so many opinions exist as to why major worldwide historical events occur. Eventually, the ones with the deepest pockets and widest influence get to write the history book.

Take the scene of an accident for example…

Everyone who witnesses the accident has a slightly different notion of what and how things happened.

In hundreds of psychological studies such as Loftus (1995), phenomena known as proactive interference and retroactive interference have been seen to disrupt memory.

In other words, people form memories about events based on information received before and after an event, then offer completely false accounts unbeknownst to themselves.

In short, misleading postevent information can alter a person’s recollection in powerful ways, creating false memories of things that never existed.

It appears that what we call the past is actually created in our minds now. And if you really stop to think about it, that’s not an outrageous idea.

Firstly, let’s agree — the future doesn’t exist. It’s a construct of the mind based around our idea that we live along a line from birth to death and it’s false.

So why do we set goals?

I’ve no clue, I really don’t.

Sure we can desire to create things, and that’s all good. It’s just this notion that the thing we are trying to create exists somewhere in “the future” is something I really struggle with.

I believe we have the ability to create whatever we want, but it appears to me to be all happening now. Both so called past and future arrive in our experience now.

Rather than us moving away from the past and into the future, I prefer to think of past and future as moving towards us, us being stationary.

Consciousness to me is primary, stationary and expanding in 360 degrees all around. Stuff (goals materialised) come to us, are drawn to us you might say.

What do you think?

I have aspirations, things I want to materialise. But I’ve less dependance on them now. I’m easier about all that and I don’t set goals any more, at least not the way I used to.

Where previously I was constantly concerned, worried, stressed about getting things right and staying on track, now I just focus on where I am.

I try to give all my attention to what I’m doing.

If I’m at home I’m at home. If it’s work then that’s where I am. I try not to let other things distract me from what I’m doing.

Know what I mean?

I don’t know when I’ll get what I want and I’m not hung up on it. All I know is that everything is alright where I am.

Now, some might say that if you don’t want something bad enough then you can’t have it. But I think the contrary is true.

If we’re too needy and desperate for things to work out a particular way then they won’t, at least that’s been my experience.

Originally published at larrygmaguire.com on March 26, 2017.

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Howdy, I’m Larry, Writer & Artist. Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. I write short stories about the ordinary lives of people and the challenges they face. My stuff can be edgy, hard hitting, and sometimes controversial, but never contrived. If that’s your bag you can Sign-up To Sunday Letters Here.

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Writer on Psychology of Creativity, Human Performance, Behaviour & Expertise | Examining Happiness & Work | Slight Perfectionist | larrygmaguire.com/subscribe

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