The Danger in Goals

What is the point in attaining anything, if it does not bring you joy?

A simple, cliche question but the one that is most important in considering the setting of goals and achieving of outcomes.

Human beings do not desire objects directly; we desire the states of being those objects grant us. A luxurious car is only incidental to what is actually worth a million dollars or more; the sensation of having something difficult to create, and difficult to obtain. That pleasure is, of course, the real prize. If it were not, the million would be spent on simply the fastest, most intensely practical form of transportation, rather than a meticulously engineered work of art.

Consider this fact when aligning yourself towards a particular end goal. What is the state you are after, the thing which the object or desired condition will bring you? How will you feel in that state? How long will it last? What will be the thing to break it, or strengthen it?

Most importantly, consider if your goal is truly the thing necessary to bring about that state. Most of the time, our goals do not grant us the states we hope for, and if they do, those states last only a moment.

 

Don’t Listen to Your Peers

There is no better motivator than necessity.

When people complain about not having the proper time, energy, or motivation needed to accomplish some goal, I wonder about the strength of their incentives. If you needed to accomplish that goal, you would. If success were necessary for survival, nothing short of death would stop you.

This is the underlying reason for the lack of sympathy and encouragement starving artists and weekend warriors garner from their peers.

Unconsciously, everyone around you knows, if you are meant to get what you say you want, you won’t need support or encouragement. 

The more difficult and distant the goal, the less you can rely on the people around you. What can they do? If the goal is distant, a Universe away from your present situation, what can your peers offer?

Not much besides, “Don’t forget about us when you make it” or “You’ll never make it”

That’s all the help you can expect.

If that seems unfair, or unpleasant, your goal is no goal at all. It’s merely a fantasy.

Support and external validation are what you get at precisely the moment you no longer need them. They are what you get once you’ve already won, and nothing your supporters or detractors say has any relevance to your accomplishment.

This brings us to the core realization behind every successful ascension towards a better mode of being; beyond those people you have deliberately selected as mentors, nothing anyone says matters. No one knows what you should do.

The people around you will support when they feel charitable, and criticize once they’re jealous or annoyed by your ambition.

Those are not helpful feedbacks. Better to ignore them, and keep the line towards your goal as straight as possible.

 

What is Self-Esteem?

Most negative conditions in life, both psychological and external, can be traced back to one underlying cause:

A lack of self-esteem.

Whole sectors of the modern economy rely on this lack and play off the powerful addictions and drives we seek to fulfill by the acquiring of goods that denote status and temporarily bolster pride.

Many books are written about how to acquire self-esteem, talking about it as if it were simply a set of beliefs one can acquire by proper internal manipulation.

But self-esteem is not the inevitable outcome of positive beliefs.

It is part of our rewards system, the most integral, least hedonistic part, that grants us joy and lasting confidence, not in return for mindless pleasures and dopamine triggers, but for virtuous action.

Lack of self-esteem is what you get when your behaviors and thought patterns do not live up to your unconscious standards of the proper and good.

Many people, in an attempt to escape from their own standards, drop those standards and thus gain the illusion of self-esteem. This is a difficult hole to come out of because once you reject your own standards and accept the improper behavior, you lose sight of what was meant to guide the course of your life.

This is why low self-esteem leads to deep bouts of hopelessness and bottomless depression. Because if you lose sight of those standards, that higher guiding force within your psyche, the future does indeed become a dark place.

It is also why to have high self-esteem is to be largely optimistic, because if you submit to your own standards, your life will proceed as is best for your capabilities and desires. A positive projection of the future will be appropriate to your conduct because your conduct will align with your goals.

Self-esteem is directly correlated with the size of the divide between you and your goals. The farther away you are from that conduct which would eventually accomplish your goals, the lower your self-esteem will be.

Self-esteem is a reward, not a treasure to dig up out of your psyche or something to be granted via the acquisition of high-status objects and environments.

 

Don’t Be Motivated

Why would a reasonable person attempt to do something incredibly difficult?

Why do our cultural heroes have lives that seem a ceaseless procession of self-inflicted hardship and struggle?

Strangest of all, why does pleasure easily gained make us feel hollow, whilst earned victories, no matter how small, make us feel that our souls are firmly rooted in the earth?

Because we can envision the future, and observe the present. Humans beings have the unique ability to consciously conceptualize our ideals. By our own free will, we can determine a goal and calibrate our present actions towards that goal. If that goal is not achieved, we experience frustration and despair.

Failure is the confrontation between our ideals and our actions.

Frustration, despair, and guilt are all facets of the same pain; that of perceiving that our framework for acting in the world is not adequate to meet our goals. Such a perception is difficult to accept and act upon, but doing so is the very essence of personal growth and progress.

Where in this model of human behavior is the need for “motivation”?

Hoping for motivation is putting the cart before the horse. The feeling of wanting to do difficult things is not cultivated out of thin air. That feeling is an inseparable consequence of selecting a difficult, concrete goal and moving towards that goal with an efficacious behavioral framework.

That is why failure is really no failure at all.

If you are failing, and adjusting behavior accordingly, you are necessarily getting closer to your desired outcome.

And not only are you moving closer, but you are actually accelerating.

But goal setting without proper behavior calibration is nothing more than fantasizing.

Action taking without close analysis of results is mindless labor.

Motivation in itself is just an emotional high. It doesn’t help you. It doesn’t bring you closer to what you want. It’s only a feeling.

What matters is how that emotion is applied in action, and from what stimulus the emotion arises.

Are you motivated because you are accelerating towards your goal?

Or because to not be motivated would be to spiral downwards into a depression?

These are difficult questions. How could they not be?

Easy questions are not questions at all, for if they are easy one already knows the answer.

Easily achieved goals are not really goals but whims, shared by drug addicts and toddlers alike.

So expect difficulty. Expect failure. Relish in self-examination. Take pleasure in adversity, and above all, hold onto your ideal.

Because without a clear ideal to move towards, your life will lack more than motivation.

Meaning itself will whither and fade.