People need goals to actually get somewhere. If you don’t have some idea of what your target is, how are you going to hit it? At the same time if all we do is jump from goal to goal, what we end up doing is burning out on goals and actually never achieving a point of contentment. We spend all this time trying to achieve some goal while the actual goal itself will at most be a fleeting moment. There is some irony in the fact that 99% of the time we are chronically not at our goal. In fact if we are setting ambitious goals it’s possible we will never achieve them. Does that make a person a failure because they didn’t achieve it? I think that depends on if they are looking for enjoyment at achieving a goal versus from going through the process of trying to get there.
There is no question that when we achieve a goal we get a bit of a charge out of it. Obviously the bigger the goal the bigger the charge we get. However the real fun should have been in trying to get there. Let’s take getting a master’s degree in something as an example. Walking across that stage and having that diploma in hand will be a great achievement that will bring immense senses of accomplishment and joy. However what about the hundreds of little steps that it took to get there? You consumed countless little morsels of information, some boring some interesting, along the way in each of your classes. You had some great times hanging out and having coffee with your friends and classmates as you struggled through those annoyingly difficult projects and exams, and then had some fun evens once those were in the past and allowed you to bask in a sense of momentary relief. If for whatever reason you never completed the degree you still had all those experiences that you carry forward. Is that really a failure if you took the time to enjoy them rather than constantly worry about waiting for the one final moment where you walk across the stage?
It’s a Buddhist cliché to tell people to live in the moment, but that’s essentially what this boils down to. Not only is life a journey of millions of little steps, but so too are all the short and long term goals we try to set for ourselves. Most of them will never come to fruition, whether it be because it was beyond our abilities or because we had a shift in what we wanted, but I think the person that enjoyed each of everything hundred missteps towards unaccomplished goals is more successful than the person who achieved a few, perhaps even grand ones, and never took a moment to enjoy a single moment of it.