Goals are highly overrated.
In today’s culture, we love them. With each New Year, we set endless goals for ourselves because we love stories of people who set goals, overcome odds, and reach them. These stories inspire us to change our lives as well.
But much of the reason we love goals is because our current model of success looks more at production, not transformation. In other words, we measure success based on how much social impact it has, not in how much it changes us. We can write a book and not see it as successful because it didn’t sell, causing us to overlook the change we went in writing it.
This is a problem because when we are driven by production, we rack up an unhealthy amount of negative emotions. For instance, we can feel a deep sadness or regret if we did not reach our goal in the way we would’ve liked. We can feel a stifling guilt that prevents us from trying again.
These negative emotions stop us from making future successes happen. This is because we’re looking at success all wrong.
Success is not an external thing; it is very much an internal thing.
I know this because Jesus was not concerned by how many people the disciples were healing and saving. He let them mess up often because it was teaching them through failure. He was instead focused on spiritually guiding them to see the truth—an action that later enabled them to establish the Church.
Here’s what I’m getting at:
Maybe, we need to stop planning everything about our lives because the impact of the negative emotions that comes with it ironically prevents future success from happening.
I’m not saying that setting goals always amounts to negative emotions. I’m saying that it’s O.K. to not have everything in life listed out as a goal. What this does is create a freedom from the emotions that might stunt our confidence.
I used to be obsessed with making goals, but the amount of anxiety and negativity they brought me at times didn’t help further my mission.
The truth is, I feel better in NOT planning everything about my life. And because I am content with not having many goals, I am not burdened with the negative emotions that want to stop my productivity.
Here are the benefits the come from not planning my life out.
1. Feel guilt-free
I’ve mentioned this before, but when I was goal-driven, I felt immense guilt when my goals changed. This was a burden I did not want to feel. In fact, I felt that God did not want me to stay in that place.
We sometimes believe that guilt can be healthy for transformation, but this was not how Jesus changed the lives of the disciples. He did not make them feel guilt for their many mistakes. He always invited them closer to Him. He loved them—an action that was present in how He had meals with them and taught them—and it was in love that their lives were changed.
Guilt is never a healthy emotion. If you feel it because you don’t know what you want to do in life, let it go by being content in knowing it’s O.K. Be content in your unanswered questions and release yourself from the burden of your guilt.
2. Focus more on the process
By not planning everything out, I can focus more on the process of the things I’m doing, not on how they turn out. What happens then is I focus on change in the present rather than always feeling the ache of wanting to be in the next season.
Sometimes, it is the trial and not the outcome that changes us.
By not planning, I feel this change occurring in the present moment.
3. Become attentive to the needs of others more
Goals can lead you to be selfish with your life because they can fixate you on the outcome and nothing else. What I found when I stopped planning my life out was that I was more open to helping others, not reaching an achievement for myself. Because of this, I had more impact than I would’ve if I planned everything out.
If goals work for you, that’s great. But today, I’m seeing that Jesus didn’t measure everything out in goals for a reason. He didn’t burden them with negative emotions. Rather, He let the disciples prosper within a broad mission. He gave them a direction to follow because sometimes it’s better to not know where you’re going to end up in life. The results can be very liberating.