Setting goals: traveling the road to failure?

Most of us at some time in our lives have set a goal. Sometimes we achieve said goals, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes our goals are small – maybe we want to go to bed at a certain time. Some of our goals are larger – maybe we want to pay off our credit cards in two years. Some of our goals may even be extremely ambitious – maybe we want to be the very first person, or at least person of our gender, ethnic group, et cetera to do a certain task. For instance, maybe Hillary Clinton had set the goal to be the first woman president, or maybe Micheal Jordan had set a goal to be the first NBA player to – whatever basketball milestone he achieved – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we stop this! Or at the very least, thoroughly examine what we set as goals. But why? Why am I telling all of you to reject what society has drilled in our head from day one? Simple; the very goals we are setting because society has told us that’s what we need to do, are destroying our society!

Let me back up a little. Firstly, let’s examine what a goal actually is. The word goal most likely stems from the middle English word “gal” which means obstacle or barrier. The very first usage of the actual word “goal,” was from the 15th century and meant the end point of a race. Ok, sure…sounds simple enough. A goal is, in a way, the end point of some sort of competition. But said competition is exactly what we need to question. With every goal we make, we must ask “who are we competing against?” Sure, at times, we are only competing against ourselves. However, so many other times, we are competing against others. Say that your goal is to be the first person to set foot on Mars. That’s an ambitious dream and most of us will celebrate your accomplishment with you. However, at what cost? Firstly, no one else will ever be able to say they were the first to set foot on Mars. Is that really fair? What makes you so special that out of the seven billion people on this planet, you alone get to say “I’m first to set foot on another planet.”? Are you really that amazing of a person? Nope! While you trained a lot more than others – and let’s be fair – you deserve it more than most of us – you’ll still be setting yourself ahead of say, your team you traveled with to Mars. You are probably mission commander, and you probably earned that position. However, maybe if the mission had happened a year later, the person sitting next to you in the pod as you descend to the surface of Mars would deserve this honor. Doesn’t matter – you took that right for yourself. All because you set a goal for yourself without questioning if you deserve it more than anyone else in all of humanity, both present and future. Ok, but what if my goal isn’t so grandiose? What if my goal is to go to bed a little earlier. There’s no harm in that, right? Well…maybe there is. That’s what I’m asking you to consider. If you want to go to bed say, a half hour earlier, that means you will have to cut a half hour of activity from your schedule. What are you doing with that half an hour? Are you engaging with other humans? Are you doing something that might ease someone’s burden? Maybe you’re cleaning the toilet, maybe you’re talking to loved ones. Maybe you’re just vegging out in front of the boob tube, but maybe you’re part of a neilsen family and that show you no longer watch because you go to bed early gets canceled! A little hyperbolic – but my point is that every single goal we make can have any number of consequences on other people. Going back to the first person on Mars, said person isn’t just taking away the tilte of “first” from all of present and future humanity, but they’re also dedicating a lot of time to do so. How much time away from their family did they take to accomplish this goal? Heck, how much money did we, the taxpayers, pay for this goal to happen?

This brings me to my next point – many of our goals take more than just ourselves to accomplish. And yet who reaps in the glory of accomplishment? Ourselves. Still, we must learn to thank those that make our goals possible. The first man on Mars will be a giant turd if they don’t thank their fellow mission mates, ground crew, and family for all their sacrifices so one person can achieve what no other human will ever accomplish again. Not to mention the politicians who allocated funds to the mission, and those of us who pay for the mission with our tax dollars. The person who wants to get to bed early should probably thank their spouse for cleaning the toilet for them, and the friends they’re spending less time with. Oh, and if the goal is to save X amount of dollars? Well, let’s just remember, money is a finite resource, that means someone else doesn’t get that money which you’re hoarding. Maybe you need to thank the propriateers of establishments you’re not spending money at because of your goal to save money.

I realize this entire stance sounds a bit entitled. I’m not standing in your way if you want to accomplish something. However, our society suffers greatly because we don’t ask what impact our actions, and in these cases, our goals, have on each other. When we set a goal without asking who said goal affects, we have already failed in reaching said goal (even if we succeed). When our goals rob our fellow man of prestige, time, money, and et cetera, perhaps we should rethink our goals.

I’ll end this by saying I love hockey. When I’m at a hockey game, and the team I’m rooting for scores a goal, I cheer and yell and have no sympathy for the other team. When the other team scores a goal, I boo and hiss, because they took something away from my team. The antithesis of my goal rethinking philosophy is to realize that other people will have goals and even if they’re being selfish with said goals, it is just as selfish to not let someone accomplish a goal because we aren’t getting something. I’m not talking about something we need – sure if someone’s goal is going to keep us from getting enough sleep, food, shelter, et cetera – we should stand up for our rights. However, sometimes we have to let people have their goals even though it might inconvenience us. If your friend wants to get more sleep, you should probably let them do so. Don’t say you’re entitled to their time. And again, I really don’t care if you want to be the first person on Mars – more power to you! I’m even happy to pay my tax dollars to make this happen! Seriously though….don’t make your wife clean the toilet. She needs her sleep just as much as you.

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