2013 delivered a big lesson: One should let go of goals. It's been a long thought gestation to get here so let me walk you through a year’s worth of thoughts and learnings :)
PURPOSE OVER GOALS
Let me start by stealing an entire excerpt from Hunter S. Thompson :)
"To put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors—but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires—including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter."
"As I see it then, the formula runs something like this: a man must choose a path which will let his ABILITIES function at maximum efficiency toward the gratification of his DESIRES. In doing this, he is fulfilling a need (giving himself identity by functioning in a set pattern toward a set goal) he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it (rather than bending himself to meet the demands of that which he seeks, he has bent his goal to conform to his own abilities and desires).
In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life – the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual"
Can you steal that much material ? I just did :) I guess my added value is in connecting the dots and fleshing out the essence. In Thompson's excerpt above, it's clear meaning and flow are far greater than goals. Because we are ever-changing, goals are but a direction. The quest for oneself holds true meaning. Practically, it is the act of reaching a point where one's own, silent company is all one needs out of life, when being alone is not frightening but joyful. It's a form of maturity. When in movement (work, relationships, interactions ...) the quest for oneself is the equivalent of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow.
TAKE YOUR FUCKING TIME
(Excuse the language) Maybe it's only in the Silicon Valley milieus but there’s been an obsession with efficiency and quick hacks lately. The 4 hour body, Soylent (the liquid food), the billion-dollar overnight start-up ... I think Brain-picking's lesson#7 captures the essence of this folly:
The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
In the first volume of this new year's resolution-free reflection, I wrote about how style can be a translation and a manifestation of happiness and inner genuine values. Style is a personal signature and is at odds with the quick hack. Some hackers talk about the MED (Minimal Effective Dose) to reach a certain objective. MED and Style might have the same outcome or result (take the example of a liposuction and a 3-year workout program). However, in the long run, they don’t have the same ROI (Return On Investment): Like everything that stretches in time and repeats, Style has compound interests. Nothing meaningful comes easy, Popova writes echoing Debbie Millman's quote above.
LEARN FROM DOGS
So if Goals should be put aside, Style made primordial, and time invested, where does that leave us as to motivation ? If goals are gone, what's supposed to incentivise us ? Ah my friends :) that's the beauty of it: Nothing ! Just like Dumbo didn't need a feather to fly, you don't need a single goal to soar !
The right attitude is an utmost hail of the moment. A bit like dogs ! Dogs are suckers to the moment. They don't make plans, they don't over-think stuff. A ball thrown in the air is the most important thing in their universe:
"Integrity, even grouchy growling integrity, in a world that doesn’t value it; nobility in a time that doesn’t want it—what Thurber’s dogs do is absurd or even pernicious (they bite people, or drag junk furniture for miles) but demonstrates the necessary triumph of the superfluous. Which is what dogs are all about; it is the canine way. Nothing is less necessary than a pet dog, or more needed. Thurber’s theme is that a dog’s life is spent, as a man’s life should be, doing pointless things that have the solemnity of inner purpose." Gropnik, The New yorker on dogs
Let me wipe my tears ! This excerpt is amazing ! The beauty of the key strokes I'm making to type this text. The music in the restaurant, the white pinkish colour of people surrounding me, the wood and the smell of food ... What I'm doing is useless in the grand scheme of things. It's useless. Completely. But there is a grandeur in that superfluousness and a dignity in that march. Breathing in like air was a lover tickling my lungs:
The thing about this bookshelf is that each of these books is a vast experience unto itself, while also being both self-contained and superbly useless. Reading any one of them doesn't get you anywhere particularly meaningful; you haven't arrived or graduated; you've just gone and done something that passes the time. It's like taking a long walk with a friend who's got a lot to say. There's no cumulative purpose to it – it's just an excellent way to waste your life. Jonathan Lethem about his books (mostly fiction)
We are gold, we are garbage. Have a great 2014. I wish you a very happy dog year !