Don’t Trust Your Goals

I saw the above magazine on a table in the gym this morning and it reconfirmed to me how skeptical I am of reaching goals to increase happiness. It’s such as easy assumption to make: “Choosing outcomes that make people look happier will make you happier too!”

There is no shortage of celebrities and rock stars who describe getting everything they ever wanted and simultaneously being the saddest they’ve ever been.
As Jim Carry says,

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

So first of all, avoid focusing on outcomes. Efforts directed at outcomes outside of your control will have the inevitable consequence of either disappointment from endless ambition on the one hand, or bitterness when things don’t work on on the other.

Instead of outcomes,

“Fall in love with the process and the results will come” -Eric Thomas.

But what kind of process should you undertake?

Mark Manson tells the story about wanting to be a famous rock star,

“But despite fantasizing about this for over half of my life, the reality never came. And it took me a long time to figure out why.

I didn’t actually want it.

I’m in love with the result — the image of me on stage, people cheering, me rocking out, putting everything I have into what I’m playing — but I’m not in love with the process.

The daily drudgery of practicing, the logistics of finding a group and rehearsing, the pain of finding gigs and actually getting people to show up and give a shit. The broken strings, the blown tube amp, hauling 40 lbs of gear to and from rehearsals with no car. It’s a mountain of a dream and a mile-high climb to the top. And what it took me a long time to discover is that I don’t like to climb. I just want to imagine the top.”

If you enjoy the idea of reaching the goal more than you enjoy the daily struggle to achieve it, you’re in trouble. Better to make your decision based on what you enjoy struggling with everyday and put no thought on the outcome.

Why something that causes you to struggle? That’s the only way to grow, feel progress and have a sense of meaning.

Only those people who enjoy the mundane repetition of being in the gym, pushing their physical limits and like feeling sore, are the ones who get ripped.
Only those who love the uncertainty about what to write next and the loneliness of self-reinforcement become accomplished novelists.
Only those who like to suffer through the long nights and find pleasure from the stress of being resourceful to make their entrepreneurial endeavor work become successful business owners.

Ira glass said,

“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Pick what you enjoy doing that puts you in that “gap” where you’re work is bad – and accept that it may never get better. Pick the suffering that you can’t leave alone. Pick the thing that even if it never made money, was never seen and never gave you any prestige you’d still do it.

Then, choose to be content by doing what makes you struggle everyday.

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