The Impermanence of Goals

Dec 21, 2017

It’s that time of year again when you’re going to start seeing a lot of articles and advertisements about how you should be setting and achieving your goals. And you’ll probably be feeling some regret for not achieving those you set before. I think a lot of this regret is misplaced. The reason for that is what I call the impermanence of goals.

I’ve lived and worked a long life and I have to say that I’ve never seen a time where there has been so much dramatic change in so short a time. The things that we call important in our society have changed dramatically over just a few years. It seems like every day we are learning new angles to examine life from and with which to value our outcomes.

As a result, goals that you set a year ago just may not make sense anymore. Even goals set six months ago may be stale and of little current value. So it doesn’t make sense to beat yourself up for not acting on them. Why commit to something that no longer is of value?

The real accomplishment is committing to staying on top of the rapidly changing world and reacting in a way that benefits the most people for the most good. It’s in recognizing how your inherent skills can best be applied to the world where it stands now.

Of course, there is danger in taking this perspective. You could be using it as an excuse for not achieving goals that really do have long-term value. So make sure you’re being honest with yourself.

Really, the right thing to do is to remain brutally honest while consistently reassessing your goals as the year progresses and the new year begins. What’s your highest priority right now? What should you be spending your valuable time and energy on? What is the best application of your skills given the changing world? And what values do you hold steadfastly to despite outer change? How can you meld those together?

This kind of constant reevaluation takes alertness, poise, and inner awareness. It also requires good communication with stakeholders in your life. It’s one thing to pull the rug out and take a new direction if it only affects you. But if you have business partners or loved ones that will be impacted, you need to balance the impacts on them with the increased value of your fresh direction. You might have to slow down to give others time to catch up.

So in this goal setting season, don’t beat yourself up for not achieving goals that no longer makes sense. And don’t let a lingering sense of regret or disappointment over uncompleted goals from the past prevent you from setting new goals this year. Every moment is the right moment to look within and confirm what your long-term priorities should be right now. Use this goal setting season as a reason to do that.


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2 Responses to The Impermanence of Goals

  1. Marc Sigrist says:

    This is great advice, wise and humanistic. Like your work in general.

  2. Karen Moon says:

    Just forget attention and work on your goals.

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