We were on top of Mt. Rainier in Washington state.
We started our summit bid a little after midnight, and it was now 6:30 in the morning. It was around 6:00 am that we had reached the summit successfully, but that was behind us now. We were now on the descent.
You’d think we were elated, celebrating the fact that we just summited the most glaciated mountain in the continental US, but you’d be dead wrong.
Not only was the adrenaline starting to wear off, but all the aches and pains that were easy to ignore on the ascent crept in, steadily but with full force.
The physical pain and the monotony of descending a mountain (it’s always worse going down) made me question just about everything in life.
… And we had a lot left of the descent to go, so by “everything” I mean EVERYTHING.
The theme of my questioning revolved around the arbitrary goals we set out for ourselves. The ones that seem significant at first glance but really make no rational sense in the grand scheme of things.
“See that bump in the distance? I want to be on top of it.”
Mountaineering is an egomaniacal endeavor and one that is entirely goal-driven. You set a goal, you train for it, and you either meet it or you don’t.
Rinse and repeat.
But it’s not only in mountaineering that we set strange goals we become obsessed with. It certainly happens in the fitness realm, too.
… Especially when the New Year kicks in. *side eye*
Now don’t get me wrong. If a random time of the year or future achievement gets you moving in the right direction, I’m all for it.
However, sometimes we can get a little too goal-crazy.
I want to encourage you to keep making progress toward the version of yourself that you want to be, but I also want you to be firmly grounded in reality as you’re doing so.
Because we all know 6 week challenges get a bad rap, not because the challenges are inherently set up for failure, but because people get “goal-crazy” for a few weeks, lose a record-breaking amount of weight, only to regain it and then some after the challenge is over.
Here are 3 reasons you should take your goals LESS seriously.
1. Goals can make you forget to be happy.
When you’re caught up in achieving a goal, you create this dichotomy in your mind between your desired future and your completely undesirable present.
Future, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured.Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
In creating this obsession about the future, you forget about the current moment and postpone your happiness.
So are goals bad for you? Absolutely not!
However, goals can be unhealthy if you use them to run away from the current version of you or your life.
Consider any individual at any period of his life, and you will always find him preoccupied with fresh plans to increase his comfort.Alexis de Tocqueville, French political philosopher
Just think: What if you had to wake up to the world around you, as it is RIGHT NOW, and as “imperfect” as you are RIGHT NOW?
A big reason why we make working out at CrossFit Lobo fun is because we want you to enjoy the process. We want you to be present, every single day, as you spend the best hour of your day with us.
Whether or not you have goals for the new year, remember to enjoy the journey and embrace exactly where it is you’re at right now.
2. You can give up way more than you get.
Because goals can be arbitrary and not based in any thoughtful logic, we sometimes pursue them irrationally. Either that, OR we don’t meet our set goals and are upset with ourselves, even if we still got close and made progress.
In The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman, the author talks about a disaster on Mount Everest that occurred in 1996, where eight people died.
“[The climbers] were so eager […] that they clung ever harder to a clear, firm, and specific plan […] even though that plan was looking increasingly reckless. They were firmly in the grip of goalodicy.”
Goalodicy = goal + idiocy
Burkeman shares another story of an executive whose only goal was to become a millionaire by the age of 40. Not a story we haven’t heard before.
And he accomplished it. He was 42 when he became a millionaire.
On the other hand, he was also divorced, with health problems, and his kids didn’t talk to him anymore.
This story isn’t uncommon in the relentless pursuit of a goal.
According to The Antidote, a survey research of American adults revealed astounding responses regarding goals:
- 41% admitted that achieving their goals didn’t make them happier and even left them disillusioned
- 18% said their goals destroyed a friendship, marriage, or other significant relationship
- 36% said that the more goals they set for themselves, the more stressed they felt
When we make goals and pursue them, without consideration to how they impact the rest of our lives (our overall health, stress levels, or even relationships), achieving the goal itself pales in comparison to the overall loss you can suffer from blindly pursuing that goal.
Remember, all that glitters isn’t “goal-d.”
3. Your goals have nothing to do with what you truly want.
Sometimes, we get obsessed with our goals because we are running away from a current unhappiness or a degree of uncertainty in our lives that we are not comfortable with.
In doing so, we marginalize the present, lose concern for how we behave around others, and only think about what “will be.”
This phenomenon is explained in The Antidote, “What motivates our investment in goals and planning for the future, much of the time, isn’t any sober recognition of the virtues of preparation and looking ahead. Rather, it’s something much more emotional: how deeply uncomfortable we are made by feelings of uncertainty.”
Burkeman forces a self-reflection on the reader that is uncomfortable when he asks us to consider a decision we’ve made and subsequently regretted. He explains what happens when we set goals or make decisions out of a present state of unhappiness or uncertainty:
“[Uncertainty] feels like you’re sinking, and [that] it is positively imperative to scramble to the next patch of firm ground, whatever direction it may be. Clinging too tightly to goals is one of the principal ways in which we express the obsession with reaching that next patch of ground.”
So, what’s the answer?
Is it to give up goals completely?
Not at all. Goals can be a great start in pointing you in the direction of how you want to live your best life; however, as with any endeavor, your approach and reasoning must be grounded in maturity.
Keep your goals, but make sure they make sense in the bigger picture of how you want to live your life well.
And if you don’t want to set any goals to begin with, you’re not hopeless. This doesn’t mean you’re complacent and want nothing out of life.
There are just different ways to better your life and seek constant growth. Setting specific goals is only one way to do that.
Living without goals not only can make you happier, but it can help you achieve more, by allowing you to enjoy the journey rather than postponing happiness.
“You can have a broad sense of direction without a specific goal or a precise vision of the future.”Stephen Shapiro, author of Goal-Free Living