My rationality story: Goals aren't what you think they are

by [anonymous] 2 min read26th Sep 20113 comments



(This is aimed at those, like me, who cursed the sky and themselves for not being smart, efficient, or disciplined enough to change the way they wanted to.)


Most of us struggle to remain driven. When you find that drive, however, you need even more effort to tame it. 

A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that the "cynical smart kid" act was just getting old. The threshold was probably crossed the night I went to parent teacher evening to confront the teachers without my parents - the only goal was "do better". In the space of a year this morphed into "good grades". Then "Medical school". Where I got the drive for change is not too interesting - if only because it is pointless to explain. What is interesting is what I achieved by simply having a goal.

Abject failure.

This is not the story about how I changed my mind, or how I overcame initial adversity.* I did never made the grade, and it took me a while to come to terms with it.  This is about the value of trial and error. This is about passion for failure. I feel the concept is thrown around a lot in the more creative business circles, but ultimately I think they fail to capture the personal importance of trying and (comfortably) failing at your goals.

Of course we all pick up and leave hobbies, we do this automatically as interest rises and wanes. This is not trying. Not when your young, not when you have so little to lose and so much to learn. Simply being outgoing and wanting to try things will not surmount the impossible. This is about the goals which drive you, which keep you up at night and get you up in the morning.

As individuals predicting ourselves, our predictive power is laughable. It can't easily be done, and the bigger your goals, the more wildly your chances of reaching them vary from what you thought possible. Just as our ability to know our reasoning is confounded by the sheer deceptiveness of our minds, we base decisions off a even more complex world through the fractured crystal ball in our head. Yet we constantly try to measure ourselves and our future in ways that seemingly assume we are machines or programs, with clear functions to fulfill and performance to measure by.**

We need to be comfortable enough with failure to seek our goals out with bloody minded perseverance, and then take pride in the leftover harvest of failure. In my case, realizing that if  I hadn't tried so hard to reach a grand, near untouchable goal, I would not have picked up all the benefits that come from trying. Realizing that if you tried hard enough, you would have gotten somewhere, even if not checking the box. The realization that I would have to see a lot of failure before I started getting anything like self-progress, and then some. It started a string of failures that have earned me more friends and skills  and opportunities than I could have dreamed of but 2 years ago - and I would surely be a success in the mind of the young man who made that first goal.

Believing in your goals is important for doing the impossible. You must not, however, fall into the trap of thinking of your goals as milestones of satisfaction, deliverance or 'the good life'. That's not how happiness works. And these measures nearly cost me my mind.

Individual Goals are there for direction - promises you make to yourself to concentrate effort in productive areas, thus leading to overall destruction & creation. Breaking them should not be taken lightly, each should be a covenant to do your damned best. But when you do break them, if you did your best , you would have achieved something to be happy about - the promise stops being a measure, and becomes a guide. As a personal goal should be.


* Separate stories really.
** Alright, weightloss may be covered by this, as well as the more tactical elements of hard work and study...