“Write your goals, state your goals, shout them far and wide! “
Or so goes the advice goes. One idea is that when you formulate something you want in words, it has a greater likelihood of becoming true. Another idea is that if you say something to others, you now have accountability, effectively pinning yourself to the vision.
A goal can create a pressure. Sometimes that is helpful. For example, establishing and approaching a deadline can galvanize a flow of work.
A Pressure in Goals
At times, however, the pressure can become too much. An overvaluation of what we want, a rigid vision, can be incompatible with reality as it exists. If I force a piece of music to be longer than it wants to be, write about something that I don’t truly connect with, or impose what I think should be a goal in therapy, I only create trouble.
But even still, it is too simplistic to recommend “be flexible”. While amending one’s goals over the course of their development is vital, there is something lost in such a cliché.
Goals Exist for the Now
Namely, we need to see goals as a part of the Now. A goal creates a vision and direction where one did not exist before.
Our focus is not the future. Whether creating, solving, or developing we ride the wave of the moment.
In psychoanalysis, an individual comes in with a complaint. They feel unfulfilled, have troubles with relationships, romantic, personal, or at work, they struggle with feelings of sadness, worry, and more. You would think then that the goal is the opposite, to feel fulfilled, to engage in relationships more fully, or to somehow remove the feelings of sadness, worry, and more.
Perhaps I form such an idea in mind. Maybe my goal and the client’s are different. Maybe we come to a unified goal through our discussions. Certainly, such goals are useful.
But they are only a part of the container, the existing structures. Other structures include our regular meetings with clear boundaries of what works and what doesn’t, during which we build a sense of trust and better examine the meanings behind the emotions and ideas as they build.
As they form, what was once considered a problem of a specific relationship might be recognized as a broader problem, or vice versa. Or what was once considered a trouble with anger is recognized as an intolerance of another emotion entirely, among many other possibilities.
The goals shift. They needed to shift, but their importance in even getting us to begin were important as a part of the beginning.
The flexibility we need with goals is in recognizing them as a parameter of the Now. They are useful as attempts at understanding “what is” or “where things are” while offering both a direction of and a support for development.
In stating a goal on Twitter and then “failing” to meet it, we risk demoralization.
Whatever structures we use need to accommodate these shifts. We can see this in any productivity system worth its salt. Agile systems include regular updates with a team. Getting Things Done includes a weekly review during which projects and lists are updated. A task manager such as OmniFocus incorporates review frequencies for any particular project.
If I am to summarize this post, where we wish to be exists in the Now along with where we are.