On goals…

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Me and my scuffed sneakers on a gorgeous tile floor — Barcelona, Spain.

A chat with a friend last month got me thinking long and hard about goals.  Goals — those things we had all throughout our growing-up years, shimmering ahead to work towards, keeping us moving ever-forward.  A week or so prior to our talk, I realized that hovering here in my mid-thirties, goals are conspicuously absent.  I mean, I have the vague desire to travel as much as possible, to succeed at work, to surround myself with people I love and trust… but those big goals I had outlining my paths over the last three+ decades?  Conspicuously.  Absent.

This worried me.  My school years were full of both immediate and longer-term goals.  Learn to ride my bike.  Get straight A’s.  Become section leader in band.  Pass that year’s Advanced Placement exams.  Get into a good college.  Graduate with honors.  Get into a good grad school.  Get an advanced degree.  Get married after getting my degree.  Find a job.  Find a job in my field.  Find a full-time job in my field that would allow me to do the very adult thing of saving for retirement.  The realization that I didn’t have an immediate goal hovering out there… bothered me.  I wondered if I had gotten less ambitious.  If perhaps I was less driven than I had been.  That possibility rattled me as much as the lack of a goal, to be honest.  Being smart and driven were things I felt were part of my identity.  If I wasn’t, then what was I?

(To be clear, I do have some “goals” in the back of my mind, but they are the kind that are on autopilot.  Pay off my student loans in X number of years.  Keep saving for retirement, that pie-in-the-sky happening that may not ever materialize for my generation.)

As my friend and I chatted, she reminded me of the plethora of things I am doing right now that I should be proud of, and I am so immensely grateful for her reminders.  It helped me find a little perspective, but it also made me wonder: are we focusing so hard on setting goals that we are missing the joys of those we have successfully achieved?  To be honest, I am not sure I ever have stopped to enjoy mine.  What a sobering realization.

This past weekend I had very little desire to do much of anything.  I felt guilty napping the hours away, but a small part of me did realize that there is a season for everything, and there is an ebb and flow to life.  We need idle times to give productive ones their verve and satisfaction, just like we need seasons of striving and seasons of reaping what we’ve sown.  That seems to be my big lesson recently in terms of goals: that I can be a person rather than a perpetual motion machine, and that I can (and should!) enjoy the fruits of my labors from time to time.  Otherwise, what is the point?

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