Take a hammer to your dreams (so you can finally achieve them)

Photo by Jachan DeVol

I don’t often talk about goals. I’m not a goal-achieving guru of any sort. But I’ve recently learned a bit of a counter-cultural mindset that’s been helping me, so I wanted to share it with you here…

Let’s talk about that big goal of yours. It could be a number of things: writing that book, starting that podcast, getting a date with that person, leaving that other person, moving to that zip code, buying that house, selling that other house, getting your kid into that school, saying those words that need to be said…

It seems so epic. If you could only do/get/achieve it, then peace would be restored and you’d emerge triumphantly.

But you’re stuck. It’s been on your mental ‘want list’ for ages now and you don’t see it getting any closer.

Well, what if I told you that the emphasis you’re placing on the achievement of your dream is total bosh? What if I said that this thing isn’t nearly as awesome as you’re making it out to be and that life will still be complicated and messy and full of tension even after you get what you want?

Would you feel helpless? Hopeless? Disappointed?

Well, that’s not my intention with this piece. Not at all...

In fact, if anything, I want this revelation to lead to your freedom.

Because this notion of ultimate satisfaction should you just get ‘the thing’ is exactly what’s holding you back from taking the steps towards getting it.

See, by propping this thing up as the end-all-be-all, it remains a utopian fantasy in your head. It’s so perfect and shiny up there. But a part of you is terrified. It’s terrified that, should you achieve the thing, this dream will vanish because it really won’t be so profoundly satisfying after all.

I want to help you take a hammer to this illusory dream right now. I want you to realize what you already know to be true — that life won’t be what you’re dreaming it up to be should you achieve your goal(s). But I still want you to try to achieve them anyway. Not because they’re your ultimate salvation, but just because it’s nice to do awesome things.

As negative as it seems, this approach will give you the best chance of achieving your goals because it’s rooted not in dreamland, but in the vulnerable and imperfect reality of the human condition.

Now, should you get what you want, I hope you realize that weighty whisper of disappointment is natural. Because the external world will never bring anything other than temporary satisfaction.

But again, may you take that first shaky step anyway. Yes, you’ll stumble and fall. Yes, it’s very likely you’ll make a fool of yourself (we all do — it makes for great dinner stories).

Focus on the enjoyment of the physical steps up the mountain rather than the crescendo of the summit.

Because really, the summit is only incredible for a few minutes before you head back down and move on to your next climb.

Bring that dream of yours down from the clouds. Nothing about it is utopian in reality. It’s far simpler and way less epic than you’re making it out to be. It’s real.

So go after it. And when you get there — or even if you fall short and decide to throw up your hands in defeat (happens to the best of ’em) — make an about face and go after the next thing enjoying every fumbling footstep along the way.

Big thanks to Peter Rollins for the inspiration 🙏


The movement of your life

Image: Samuel Zeller

It’s easy to see life as a series of destinations (goals)which are created and worked towards. Like stops on a train, each one is unique, but left behind as the train moves towards the next one.

We’re such a goal-oriented society here in the US, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the constant goal-setting and chill out a bit.

This is what writing does for me. It forces me to take stock of the movement of my life that’s happening right now. My job on these daily postings is to notice things and explain them to you. This makes me move through my world differently. With open eyes.

What’s the current pulse? What am I up to en-route to the next goal? Why not just look out the window of the cabin and check out the scenery in front of me right now?

Each goal — each stop — is just a blip in time. The majority of our life is spent flying down the rails. If we don’t take note of the biggest part of the journey — the part that’s happening right now — it’ll just… pass us by.

Goals as starting points — not destinations

Image: Tim Eplinius

There it is. Your bright, shiny goal. It’s spotless. Perfect.

But there’s one, big problem…

It’s far off in the distance. And usually, the closer we step towards it, the further it moves away.

Like the carrot in front of our nose, it gives us something to point at, but getting there usually leaves us feeling dejected and low-spirited when we never... quite… reach it.

“A goal is not a place to get to. It’s a place to come from”
-Rich Litvin

Starting with a far-off goal is okay. We gotta have something to shoot for. But always turn that far-off goal into a starting point. So…

Instead of,
I’m going to lose 20 pounds by Christmas, 2016
I am done eating french fries and accompanying my meals with Mountain Dew.

Instead of,
I will get into a better relationship this year.
I am a secure, confident person and I reflect that onto all my relationships.

Just a small shift in how we set our goals can make for big change in the present moment. Not in some far-off, unreachable future.

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