I don’t have big life goals. I never did. When I was a kid, the one dream I had for my future was to own a pizza restaurant. I liked pizza, and as a pizza restaurant owner, I could gulp as much pizza as I wanted. It was a good plan then, and it’s a good plan now. 

Some people, including myself, would call me lazy, crazy, or even useless. I may be all the above, but I am mostly clueless. I don’t understand the concept of goals, or rather I can’t grasp their premise. I don’t “get” goals, I don’t have goals. What is the point of having goals anyway? 

But I am conflicted as I want to have goals. It was okay not having goals when I was 18 and 22 years old, but now I am almost 26, and I am still drifting in a sea of uncertainty. And I am getting tired. Paddling is a hard job. I am envious of anyone with clear goals and direction as they can see the land across the sea and strive to get there. Somewhere solid, stable, a place with a treasure full of gold. A goal. But I still don’t get the hype about goals. 

People obsess over goals. Everybody, at any given time, wants something. Then they get it and want something new and then another. A better job and spouse, a bigger house, a shinier car, a kid or kids, and a better life for their kids than themselves. And then, after a few fulfilled wants along the way, they die. Reset and repeat. Welcome to the story of life and humanity. Character, complication, resolution. A complete story. Well done. 

Though what is the ultimate goal? A story is as strong as its want. The bigger the want, the bigger the story. What is everyone so desperate and obsessed to get? Everyone is out there for the big hunt of happiness. But it’s not as much a pursuit of happiness as it’s of success. People confuse happiness with success. 

Success is a cat from hell. For individuals or dogs so fixated in chasing after and catching success, we fail miserably in our quest. The best we can do is to settle for chasing our tails and keep on spinning forever. This spinning is also known as the hedonic treadmill. A cycle of desire and fulfillment. In other words, identifying and accomplishing a goal which brings us temporary pleasure, followed by a return to our previous state of happiness or sadness. And which is then followed by looking for a new goal to fulfill. 

We are to blame for chasing on a false image of happiness, the one of success, and one goal or pleasure or accomplishment after another. Bad, very bad dogs. But at least sometimes our tails wiggle, and we can feel satisfaction and happiness. Why is my tail broken? Why won’t it wiggle too?

And why should we assume success and ticking boxes of fulfilled goals to be the same with happiness? 

Perhaps this misattribution is a matter of objectivity against subjectivity and certainty against uncertainty. Goals and success are objective. Goals need to be S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-targeted. Set rules on goals define one’s expectations with clarity. And success is a visible achievement and a sign of personal progress. Either compared to one’s previous state or compared to people in one’s scene. One can know of his success or failure with certainty.

Happiness is subjective. All individuals can choose or accept the conditions in life that make them happy. There are no clear rules to define one’s happiness. Give a man a thousand choices, and he can make none. 

But to be human is to strive to be happy. Perhaps it’s cognitive dissonance that deprives us of happiness. The inability of two conflicting attitudes or beliefs to coexist. And we learned since we were kids that to get or achieve anything worthy, requires struggle and intense effort over time. Happiness for the most of us is a feature of the future.

If we could accept we are happy as we are in the present, and with what we already have, it would be too easy and effortless. Thus conflicting, unacceptable, and undesirable. I could be happy by having a pizza. But it can’t be that easy, so I am looking for something grand. A pizza la la land. A thing I could have, not something I have already. And I  paddle paddle paddle, as it’s a hard job, worthy of the struggle.  

Everyone wants to have something to look forward to. Everyone lives in the future as it’s easier than to live in the present. The future can take any shape and form. The present is already set. People live in the future, prefer it, but they are afraid of it. The flexibility of the future makes it uncertain. 

To face the anxiety of such uncertainty, people tend to invest in their preferred vision of that future. And what a better way to define the random and the absurd than by using goals to set up clear expectations and targets. An image of success and happiness.

I still don’t get the point of goals. Focusing on one goal or set of goals would mean ignoring all the others. Success in one area in life means the failure in another area. By desiring something, we lose the sensitivity to anything. We are missing out on a thousand little moments for one grandiose moment. One instant of accomplishment, satisfaction, and of success.

And what if that moment never arrives? Everyone makes plans and sets up goals for success, but to prepare for failure is rare. We forget that the universe is indifferent to any of our plans. If we feel we are worthy of success, it doesn’t mean it should happen. An expectation is not a certainty, and the universe doesn’t care about what is fair.

“The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.”

Erich Fromm 

To be human is to fight. The only constant and certain thing in the human history is the war with uncertainty. The enemy was always the same, and it will always be. One can never know anything for certain. But as a species, we have a trait that separates us from all the other species. Creativity. 

We needed a better way to deal with the uncertainty of the environment, and when one brain wasn’t enough, we combined many. We created communities, societies, kings and gods, agriculture, civilization, and future. We invented the language as a form of communication and cooperation, and writing to immortalize our words and to keep records on the knowledge against the war with uncertainty.

What is the point of having big goals or pursue success anyway? I still don’t get it. Why should I deprive me of uncertainty and thus my humanity? Why should I choose to chase my tail and keep on spinning around myself?

The world may be a huge pizza restaurant with an uncertain and infinite number of pizzas. That’s okay. I will have a slice of pizza at a time and just see what happens.

 

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