Are you ready to set your goals, but for some reason, there is always something that stands on your path and your goals, instead of coming closer seem to distance themselves from you? Are you frustrated because of this? Or instead of setting goals you are lying to yourself, and they are nothing but dreams. Or perhaps you already reached all your goals. How does that feel? Are you happy achieving everything you have been working towards??
I don't think the answer to the above matters, what I mean by it; You are not alone.
Goal setting is a powerful process of working or thinking about your future, but in reality it doesn't really work out so well for everyone. Somewhere along the way we are making a fundamental mistake about the meaning of goal setting. Take a look at the world around you. According to the statistics more than half of marriages fail, more than half of Americans hate their jobs and one-third of people in the United States alone are morbidly obese.
What kind of goals did we set to get us here? Why are the lives of so many people unfulfilling. Despite the amazing technology we have today, and people getting smarter, yet, we feel stagnant.
To understand this, we need to take a deeper dive into where we, as a species come from, what defines us, and what separates us from other species.
The neocortex is the newest part of the cerebral cortex to evolve (prefix neo meaning new) and appears to be a distinguishing feature of mammals. The neocortex is involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, reasoning, conscious thought, and in humans - language. Language is the actual thing that puts us on a higher intellectual level than animals. We widely assumed to be the most intelligent species on Earth due to our behaviors and civilizations, but if we really are, it is debatable. Animals have superior abilities on so many different levels. Sense of smell, navigation, hearing, vision… In photographic memory, humans were challenged against chimpanzees and young chimpanzees were found to have a superior ability to retain a sequence of numbers than human adults. From masturbating dolphins to chimps using tools, animals often display behaviors that we’d consider human. So what makes us unique? Is it our language? Is it religion, or music, or art, or any number of things that are not as unique to us as we had once thought? The truth is that it is all of these things and more, but crucially, it was in the engagement of our minds to transmit skills and ideas to others. Its the stories we tell about how we come to be and who we are.
Our ability of communication lets us be a lot more organized than animals, or at least so we think. The way animals communicate is biological, or inborn. Human language is symbolic, using a set number of sounds (phonemes) and characters (alphabet), which allows ideas to be recorded and preserved. Animal communication is not symbolic, so it cannot preserve the ideas of the past. Language allows humans to preserve stories, organize communities, set goals, create cultures, governments, and different worlds. One of them is the physical world - the one that we see and touch, and the other is the world of the language and our thoughts. World that is not tangible and often not real, and yet we strongly believe in it. We have many words for things we have never seen. "Company" for example; it is just a piece of paper but to us, a company means success and wealth. Anyone can make up a company, pay a few bucks, call themselves company owners, and people automatically treat you with more respect. Not to even mention that the goal of having a company is also met. Another word is “God”. It is a complex idea that we have created and there is so many definitions and meanings to it. And yet, people are so dedicated to the idea, that over centuries killed hundreds of millions of people. All in the name of God. The 30 years war, the Crusades, and Spanish Conquest of the Americas are only a few of them. People live their lives based on the understanding which doesn’t exist as anything but a syntax in a human brain. Growing up we are being coded with words like degree, money, good job, success and unknowingly we are getting trapped in the world so different than what our hearts truly desire. We set goals around a mental model of success which means good grades, college, university, good job, work 9-5, save money, and then you can maybe retire and enjoy life. Seriously? What is so enjoyable when you are old, often sick, and God forbid, but you’re alone because your spouse already passed. What do you do then? Travel? Go to clubs, connect with other people? What kind of memories will you create?
I have never heard of anyone laying on their death bed and regret they didn't have better jobs, made more money, expended their company, or they closed more multimillion-dollar deal and did not achieve their goals as a matter of fact.
I’d like you to question your goals. What are they and what do they really mean to you. Are they really going to make you happier?
Happiness doesn’t roll around those things, but to us, setting career goals and achieving them means the ultimate state of bliss.
Happiness means - to really experience humanity. Be in love, create wonderful memories, doing things that you are excited about, and for some, are meaningful to the world. We are told how to live our life by people who want us to be safe. They have been thought by their parents the same thing and their parent's parents and so on and on and on. It is natural for people that love us to want us to be safe. Being safe means have money and a secure job. There really are not many parents who think of happiness as a priority, they all think that It will come later. Some even consider it laziness. Because truth to be told, the jobs chosen by others - even though they could be secured with a good source of income, don’t really bring happiness but rather stagnation. Suddenly you wake up at the age of 50 or 60 and think... "What the fuck did I do with my life?".
Life is about growth. We get there only if we are allowed to make mistakes. If you are a parent, you most likely want to give your child a better world, let them experience a better life than you use to have. There is no perfect formula for parenting, it doesn’t come with a manual. I grew up with a bunch of prohibitions and strict rules that I needed to follow. My childhood memories are pretty sad. I wasn’t allowed to go outside to play with other children. I had to study. I would wake up at 6 AM, get ready for school, and after school my schedule was filled with activities. I was going to church to learn about my religion, then music school to play piano, ballet, choir, evening school to learn different languages, play basketball and take swimming lessons even during winter months. Thankfully my mom thought the swimming lessons through after I got really sick and spend weeks in bed with a fever. But no worries, it was quickly replaced with another after school activity. There were not enough hours in my day to fit all those things, and yet I did them all. I would finally return home around 10 PM, then was time for supper, homework, study for next day tests, and that was my life from Monday through Saturday. (Children in Europe go to school even on Saturdays). Sunday mornings were reserved for church and after that I had to catch up on all the schoolwork I had no time for during the week. I would go to bed and cry in my pillow, thinking my parents didn't love me. I thought I was adopted. I didn't know love, other than what my grandparents showed me. My experience with parenthood was just rules, I was punished for bad grades and pushed harder and harder to achieve some kind of a goal my parents set for me. If drugs and alcohol would have been more available then, I would have ended up looking for distraction right there. My stress levels were constantly through the roof. Instead, I found solace and calmness in cigarettes, and I started smoking at the age of 13. I know that eventually I turned out ok, and the lesson I’ve learned through all this, was very important because when I became a mother myself, I knew exactly what not to do and that love is what your children need the most. I let my daughters do pretty much do whatever they wanted. Not literally, they had responsibilities of course, but I also knew that no matter what I said or preached, they will end up doing the opposite anyway. I would give warnings, explain different life situations, teach them morals and life values, but I also knew that if I told my children not to jump off the bridge, they would have done it anyway. My job as a parent was to wait under that bridge in case they fall. I let my children follow what their hearts really craved, and helped them to create a vision for their lives which I would support. I knew it wasn't an easy path, but in my eyes was the path it was worth taking. Who knows, perhaps in a few years one of my daughters will write a book where she will criticize my parenting skills. But even if I did something wrong, I am sure they will not repeat that mistake with their own children.
If you allow yourself to truly experience life, you will hit a lot of bumps on the road and “Oh Shit” moments, but you will also be able to live through unforgettable, heart exploding events. In order to make your journey genuinely rich and extraordinary you need to set yourself free of the expectations that were programmed into you by those who believe in rules, customs, and cultures made by people who died hundreds of years ago. Our bodies did not evolve for the past 1000 years, but what has evolved is our consciousness. The awareness of external and internal existence. Trust that consciousness, follow your heart, and make sure that the goals you are setting are those that you truly desire. Your mind is the hardest prison to break from, but it is a freedom you will enjoy the most.