Transformation Goals vs Acquisition Goals


“But the problem is that most things look trivial if we look at them the wrong (or perhaps right) way, and everything is ephemeral. It’s vanity, for instance, to think that having a best-selling book or winning a literary prize is not ephemeral. Given the fickleness of taste and the caprice of fashion and literary critics, it would also be wrong to take any such success as a reliable indicator of importance. If we think worthwhile goals have to be both important and enduring, then it’s time to despair. So here’s another suggestion. The best goals are ones that focus on doing and being, not on having done. Whenever a goal is to have done something, whether it’s to have won a Grand Slam or eaten more baked beans in one minute than any other human in recorded history, then the problem is that achieving the goal leaves you with nothing left to do, unless you adopt yet another goal, and keep the cycle going until you tire of life or it tires of you. If, however, your goal is to be a good cook, for example, to do good cooking, then achieving that goal means you have succeeded in living a form of life that has more meaning and satisfaction to you, a life that is filled with more of what you value. It’s important to notice that adopting this kind of goal sometimes involves focusing on having done certain things too. If you try to be the best tennis player you can, for instance, then you will hope to have won some tournaments by the time you retire. If you want to be a writer, then you will certainly want to have finished writing something eventually. The critical point is that each of these goals has its value because pursuing it requires you to do and be what you want to do and be. That is what gives it deep worth, not simply the fact that you have done them and so added to your list of achievements.”

Excerpt from The Shrink and the Sage by Julian Baggini and Antonia Macaro

P.s This is an idea I came to appreciate more of in 2015

A Culture of Rat Racers


The reason why we see so many rat racers around is that our culture reinforces this belief. If we get an A at the end of the semester, we get a gift from our parents; if we meet certain quotas on the job, we get a bonus at the end of the year. We learn to focus on the next goal rather than on our present experience and chase the ever-elusive future our entire lives. We are not rewarded for enjoying the journey itself but for the successful completion of a journey. Society rewards results, not processes; arrivals, not journeys.

Once we arrive at our destination, once we attain our goal, we mistake the relief that we feel for happiness. The weightier the burden we carried on our journey, the more powerful and pleasant is our experience of relief. When we mistake these moments of relief for happiness, we reinforce the illusion that simply reaching goals will make us happy. While there certainly is value in relief—it is a pleasant experience and it is real—it should not be mistaken for happiness.

Excerpt from Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar.

Photo credit: James Clar.