Goals

Adude I follow recently wrote “Without goals, we’re just meandering through life.” I looked up meander and found: “(of a river or road) follow a winding course”. I decided I was willing to cop to that.

If I’m in my canoe or kayak, would I rather be on a straight shot down the Mississippi, or following a meandering stream? I’ll take #2. On my bike, would I rather be on a road that cuts straight through on a grid pattern, or one that follows the contours of the land, a meandering stream, switchbacks through the mountains, or just the contours of hills and valleys? Gee, I guess I pick #2 again.

Is life a journey or a destination? As a destination, I guarantee you the destination is death. If you want to get there, I know a shortcut. I’m in no hurry. I’d just as soon meander my way there, stop and smell the roses, check out the view from lookouts along the way.

From my meandering, I’ve learned a thing or two about the necessities of life. Growing up I heard “food, clothing, and shelter”. What got me to look at that was my meandering. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one.) I started with food – first in restaurants and then in a retail grocery co-op. I left there for a low-income housing co-op. From there I went to a third world farming co-op, then a plumbing company, and then to a hospital. And that’s just talking about work, not life.

Along the way I learned about gravity. Water under pressure goes wherever you want it to go. Otherwise it falls down. Natural gas, if not under pressure, goes up. A building, if not constructed so that each part “falls onto” the part below (with the bottom “falling into” the earth), falls over. In martial arts, “the force” is gravity, not something mysterious from Star Wars.

Welcome back. If you read the post at the link, you don’t need the three paragraphs I wrote and cut. So the necessities of life, in my view, are: food, housing, (clean) water and sewage (disposal), health care, education, and community. Not bad for a life of meandering. And life is like a campsite – you want to leave it cleaner and in better shape than you found it.

But what about goals? It would be nice to say that I set a goal to explore the necessities of life and build a career by providing for those needs, but that would be a lie. I meandered into these.

As part of my job, I write goals with patients every day. They have to be functional, attainable, measurable, and time-bound. Do my life and leisure pursuits have to be that way, too?

On the other hand, I rode my bike across the country a couple of years ago. That was a goal. It required training. Training required a series of intermediate goals and actions taken in order to meet them. So I’m not poo-poohing goals completely. But goals are like wishes – they may have unintended consequences. When I hear that someone is “goal-driven” I want to barf. Hell, even my car isn’t driven very often. I’d rather not be driven. I’d rather have goals that are in service to me than to be in service to my goals.

I once went through a 14 day workshop. It was an ordeal. At the end, I couldn’t say much except that I’d gotten through it. I was miserable much of the time. I had trouble keeping my eyes open. I later figured out that the combination of ceiling fans and overhead lights made my eyes burn, and closing my eyes was more to defend them than because I was bored and sleepy. A baseball cap made a big difference. I took the 14 day workshop another time, and this time it was to do more than survive 14 days closed up in a room with a group of people. Surviving 14 days in a closed room doesn’t mean much.

And what do goals mean? Climbing Mt Everest might be a lofty goal. Reaching that goal entails a lot of money and a lot of sacrifice by a lot of people serving you who are not going to reach the summit. It entails a lot of garbage being left behind on the mountain. It often entails people dying. “Everesting” is a big deal now – climbing the elevation equivalent of Mt Everest, but doing it where you are. (So you could climb a 1000 foot hill 29 times – plus a little more if you’re a stickler.) Does that mean anything? Only if it does. In other words, any goal has the meaning you bring to it. Sometimes we as a society give meaning to something (so we keep track of who can run 100 meters the fastest). But is the setting of goals just an indirect means of attempting to bring meaning to life? (My life is meaningless, but if I can just accomplish X, that will mean something.) So do we give meaning to a goal, give meaning to life, experience that life (and our goals) have no inherent meaning (unless you experience that they do), and go on from there? Or do we recall when Flakey Foont asked Mr Natural, “What does it all mean?” Mr Natural’s response was, “Don’t mean sheeit.”

from hipcomic.com. Copyright R. Crumb

Author: halffastcyclingclub

We are a group of friends who ride bikes. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow, all of us are half-fast. In 2018, one of us is riding coast to coast across the US. If we meet Sal Paradise, we'll let you know.

6 thoughts on “Goals”

  1. A thought-provoking post! Most cycling blogs don’t get so metaphysical. Perhaps a cycling goal can be as simple as to continue to experience cycling? That’s a pretty low bar, but simply showing up is a big part of any endeavor.

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  2. My little book about hiking in California for 20+ years is titled My Everest. I figured (mathematically) that climbing those hills as many times as I did equalled many Everests. When it comes to goals, I prefer the term “objective” because, to me anyway, it carries the implication that there might be stuff in the interval that changes the objective or obstructs it completely. I have an objective now that depends on a lot of factors out of my control like snow and money. That doesn’t stop me from working in the direction of the objective even though I know it might not happen. I want to be ready if it does/can. πŸ™‚

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  3. My favorite part was “be ready if it does/can”. Having studied “Management by objectives” in the distant past, that’s not a word I want to use in my personal life, so you’re welcome to it. πŸ˜‰

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  4. I agree that sometimes goals aren’t necessary but sometimes they are! It’s all about balance I like to say and to your point sometimes we “over-goal” thinking that’s what we should do, rather than doing it because it’s needed. But…every once in awhile you (well at least I do) need to go big or go home and set Big Hairy Audacious Goals and not be afraid to not attain them. Oh, and by the way, as a Kenpo practitioner since I was just a young’n (black belt attained in 1999) I can tell you the force, or chi, as we refer to it, is more than just gravity. It’s the energy that flows in and around all living things and it can be VERY powerful. I know, I sound like Yoda, but young Skywalker, it is true. πŸ˜‰

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