Imagine that you were given a bow and arrow but not given a target. Where would you aim the arrow? Probably nowhere in particular, just anywhere in the random open space.
And let’s say you did shoot in any direction at random. Why did you shoot in that direction instead of another direction? What was the purpose of aiming left instead of right? Another question could be what is the outcome of aiming there instead of here?
You get the idea of how silly it is to aim with no target in sight. It’s a waste of time, energy, ability, and effort. Yet so many of us do just that. We get up in the morning with no real agenda for our day so we meander through daily routines — work, school, traffic, pit stops, bills — and wonder why we end up feeling as if our lives are meaningless and unfulfilled.
Goal setting as a way to bring meaning into our lives is nothing new. Over 2000 years ago, the Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle, wrote about the “four causes”. One of those four causes is the “final cause” which is the primary highest purpose for being. It is the result of establishing an end goal. That end goal is what helps to bring meaning and satisfaction to our lives. As Aristotle states, it is “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done.”
If we don’t intentionally set out to do something, nothing meaningful happens. Having an end goal in mind is what helps to keep us motivated and pushing forward so that we can reach that “final cause” [the “why” behind the “what”] that Aristotle wrote about. Zig Ziglar said it right, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”
The first step to reaching your goals is to have a goal to reach. Determining where you want to go is rule number one in getting there. Many of us have GPS systems in our cars to help us get to where we want to go. We won’t get anywhere unless we first know the destination.
Setting goals is a critical first step for several reasons.
ONE…Goals help you to visualize what you want.
If you want to write a book, for example, the way to not get there is to put “Write a book” on a to-do list. You’ll never get there with that huge boulder hanging over your head. The way to get there is to establish a time each day in which no matter what else happens, you will write one chapter or x-number of words until you complete the book.
TWO…Goals help you to see the destination before you actually get there.
If the destination looks good in your mind’s eye, just keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing a little bit every day to make progress. Some people say that seeing is believing. That’s not true when it comes to goal setting. Believing actually comes before you see anything. You don’t experience the end of the goal, you experience each step toward the goal first before you actually get there.
THREE…Goals help you to stay focused.
Back to the arrow illustration used earlier, to hit a target, you have to have a target to hit. You can have all the talent and potential in the world but if you don’t have the ability to focus and guide your potential into a useful path, you will never reach your goals. Goals are what give you direction. Rather than shooting aimlessly into random space, goals allow you to focus your mind on a target so that you can actually reach it.
Setting goals doesn’t have to be a chore. Rather, it’s a frame of mind and a point of reference that will you get past life’s inevitable clutter on your way to a more meaningful existence.
Until next time, Vita. Consilio.