VIII – Goals: The Marathon II

‘Not all those who wander are lost’ Tolkien
‘Goals are artificial because you don’t love working on it, but because you set it as a goal. Be content now, don’t create an artificial finish line that will allow you to be content only then. Goals are constraining because you don’t let yourself work outside its achievement’ Leo Babauta


I have continued to contemplate living without goals, and whilst Leo Babauta and Joshua Fields Millburn think it’s possible and claim to be doing so, I have my doubts. Everything you want to do can be characterised as a goal. For instance, they love writing, they love sharing and adding value to other people’s lives. Why aren’t they claiming those as goals? “I have the goal of writing”; “I have the goal of adding value to your life”.

“But isn’t living without goals, a goal in itself?” – Many people asked in Leo’s blog.

On the other hand, goals need to be measurable. I plan to run the marathon on the 3rd of July, means that on that date I aim to run 42km. I can go further and want to run it under 4 hours without my pulse going over 150bpm. It sure is different than the goal of “I just want to run”.

The S.M.A.R.T. method for goal setting claims that goals need to be: Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant; Time-Bound.

  • Specific: get too specific and the chances of failure increase and so will the disappointment – which is sad if you partially achieve what you set out to do. If you get too specific you’ll most likely not see what is going on around you and lose the chance to engage in other, more meaningful, opportunities;
  • Measurable: measure too much and the chances of failure increase and so will the disappointment – which is sad if you partially achieve what you set out to do. Set the goal of doing 200 push-ups in a row and when you can only do 199 you’ll be frustrated. Measure too often and you’ll also lose focus.
  • Attainable: no argument here. If you’re set to obtain something, get somewhere, it might as well be something/somewhere possible to get.
  • Relevant: make sure your goal is relevant. Otherwise, what’s the point? Does it add value to your life and/or the ones around you? Does it add value to the world?
  • Time-Bound: get too focused on the time you have to achieve your goal and you’ll increase your levels of stress, the chances of failure and your disappointment – which is sad if you achieve it (partially or completely) after the set date. Everyone knows that a lot can change in a short spell of time. Use it well. When you set time-bound goals you’re living in the future, not now, not here.

I guess one way or the other and however you define them, we all set goals. We can discuss semantics – Joshua Fields Millburn argues that “goals are different than choices” and so they are, but I can claim that choices are goals. “I chose to exercise and eat organic because I want to be healthy” isn’t much different than “I have the goal of being healthy”. Again, semantics.

For now, I have made up my mind. I will live with goals. After all, I do have a few. I have the goal of being happy, spend more quality time with my family, of living by the beach, of pursuing some interests in the hope of develop them into passions, of being a better friend.

What I will not do is try to measure these. I will not precise the distance I want to live from the beach, the number of hours I want to spend with my kids and when I want to develop any number of passions by. I will however set goals that are Relevant (for me, mine and others) and Attainable (I won’t set out to play professional football as a Benfica player, but I’ll keep playing with friends).

I guess, today, mine is the R.A. goal setting method.

Where do you see yourself in 1, 2, 5, 10 years? How would you have answered this question 1, 2, 5, 10 years ago? Do you think that if in 1, 2, 5, 10 years you’re exactly where you said you saw yourself, you will be content? Or you would rather be somewhere else? Where are you NOW?


3 thoughts on “VIII – Goals: The Marathon II

  1. I don’t think the goal of “being happy” is measurable and attainable. In fact I think you are happier if you don’t set that goal and don’t even think about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with the 2nd part of your comment – if you do not set the expectation of being happy nor try to be happy, you’ll probably get there faster without even noticing it.
    I do defend however that “being happy” can be an Attainable and Relevant goal. I know it’s attainable because I have been (and am) happy, and I know it’s relevant because my family, friends and I are better and more whole if I’m happy.
    Regarding the measurable part of it, I think happiness can be measured since it has different degrees to it (Benfica winning makes me happy, my daughter saying she loves me makes me the happiest).
    But measuring is not a metric I implement in my goals these days. My goal setting method is the R.A. one – the goals I set, just need to be relevant and attainable. All the other metrics work to set expectations that can easily lead to disappointment.

    I have been thinking more about happiness and “how to get there”. I don’t think it’s an absolute state that once reached the goal is complete – it’s a changeable “condition” that requires our constant care and can be subject to external factors.
    I believe my goal of “being happy”, is more of a by-product of achieving other goals: spend more quantity and quality time with the girls; live closer to the beach; be healthy; do more meaningful work; develop new and significant passions; learn new skills… basically keep growing and contributing to others.

    What do you think? Is this in line with your comment?


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