Why You Should Never Have Goals

You’re not an American, and you’re especially not Hillary Clinton, if you don’t have goals.

Americans are told very early on that life is about setting goals and then bulging every sinew to reach them.

This seems simple, linear even.

That’s the problem.

Life’s path is as linear as that of a snake after ten Becks, two whiskey chasers and a large rat pie.

It draws you here, entices you there and slaps you constantly from every direction in every part of your being.

Yet, if you’re goal-oriented, you’re supposed to ignore all that.

You’re supposed to head for your goal, because life is a game of hockey, albeit with refs who have the twisted countenance of a jilted relationship counselor.

At least in hockey, the goals are always the same size, always in the same place and always open for your aim.

In life, the rules are somewhere between fluid and effluent and, even when you attempt to score, you suddenly discover that the goals don’t look like they did at the beginning of the game.

If fifteen years ago, your goal was to be the CEO of a High Street movie rental chain, then 15 years later that doesn’t seem like quite the finest idea any more.

If ten years ago, you thought that being a rock star was where it was at, now you can surely see that it’s at somewhere entirely different. One appearance on “The Voice,” a debut single, a debut album and, likely, an adieu.

Goals have so many issues.

They’re like the perfect woman who, when you finally meet her, has the voice of Woody Woodpecker, the sincerity of Tony Blair and the thoughtfulness of Pol Pot.

They’re like Bernie Madoff before the money was counted. They’re held up in reverence as pedestals to aspire to. You only get to examine them by climbing the mountain towards them.

When do you set these goals? In your teens or your early 20s, when your knowledge of yourself and your control over your inner chemicals is about as great as Clint Eastwood’s tolerance of neighbors in “Gran Torino.”

When you choose your goals, you have no idea what you’re doing.

You’re doing it because you’re told you’re supposed to do it. So, just like an illiterate walking into a bookstore, you choose the fattest book with the prettiest cover.

How often do people spend half their lives reaching their goal, only to discover it doesn’t feel like they thought it would?

Goals are supposed to give your life purpose and meaning. Instead, they loom over it like a Kraken on crack.

Does the unexpected give more pleasure than the planned goal?

Does the unexpected give more pleasure than the planned goal?

Goals are clever and insidious.

If you don’t reach your goal, will your life have been worth living? Well, you’ll never know unless you reach your goal, will you?

Once you buy such an argument, the sort that people pay very well-dressed lawyers $400 an hour for, you’re sucked into a vortex of striving.

Indeed, striving is then synonymous with living.

He who doesn’t strive is a worthless member of society. She who has no goals, has no purpose, no identity, no attraction.

Who would ever marry a man with no goals? Surely no one with any goals.

Yet if you’ve ever sat beside someone’s death bed, one piece of monologue is often heard: “If only I’d known.”

But what can replace goals as a reason to live? How about nothing?

We’re living in an age where science is telling us what to do and who to be.

Technology tells us we’re not interested in privacy any more.

So, in exchange for the ability to find out what our high school friends’ babies look like, we cheerily let people follow us all around the Web, and therefore all around the world.

Why not take a more scientific approach to life? Make every day an experiment. Make every day an exploration without a specific end in mind.

Don’t work to get a promotion. Work to see how it makes you feel and what it makes you become. If you don’t like yourself, quit.

Don’t date someone because your coupling makes business sense. Instead, find a lover who really does get your jokes, rather than pretends to.

Why not accept that you’re in a world you can’t control and have a destiny about whose character you are entirely clueless?

Enjoy that cluelessness, rather than pretend you know what you want.

If this sounds like a self-help post, then I have no idea how it happened.

My goal was to be funny. Perhaps I inadvertently achieved it.


Image: ESPN/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk