My definition of success
The folly of believing retirement is the best time of life

The problem with life goals

[ 4 min read ]

What if you’ve achieved your life goal early (say in your late 30's)? Will you still have something to live for?

I think believing one needs a life goal (something tangible, completion of which will mean you’ve arrived — achieved what you were born / meant to achieve) is a mistake.

Who revealed to me what my goal in life is (was)? Had someone told me some dumb cliché circulating in the society how the mission of every man on earth is to plant a tree, build a house and have a son (child)? I don’t know what the equivalent of this bullshit for women is (I’d been fed the male version by my father who believed it), but I’m pretty sure something similar is in circulation.

Or, maybe I invented something myself? Maybe I told myself a bullshit story about my life goal?

Maybe I told myself that my life will be complete (I’ll achieve my life goal) if, by my 40th birthday, I will have my own company/ business, $5M on my bank account, a family consisting of me, my spouse, three children and a dog, or that all my children will live on their own, or that I will have bought my dream car, or built my dream house, or become a president, or something of that nature?

Was it really my life goal? Yes of course. I figured out what I wanted to achieve in life, called it my life goal, made all sorts of sacrifices and decisions in order to achieve that goal, and voila — I’ve arrived! What was it if not my life goal?

Either I will manage to convince myself that I can have another life goal, and then a yet another, and then one more after that (that having multiple life goals, or, even better, an infinite number of life goals is OK), or that having a life goal (upon completion of which my life will become pointless) is a mistake, or I will have nothing to live for.

We decide what our life goal is, or whether or not we will have one. We either mimic others (repeat all sorts of dumb statements about our mission in life), or we invent something ourselves.

Is it really necessary to have a life goal? Maybe those who had their life goals can’t help feeling that life becomes pointless once you’ve achieved your goal?

Maybe it is better not to have one? Maybe an intangible goal would be better (I will serve my country — although a country can disappear, or I will dedicate my life to helping children who were born in war or conflict zones and had to flee their country)? But there is a problem. What if suddenly I’ll feel that I’d prefer something else? Maybe calling it a ‘life goal’ wasn’t that smart? Maybe I should have factored in that people can have a change of heart?

Maybe chasing after a tangible goal will make your life miserable? What if you suddenly learn that you can’t achieve that goal (can’t have children of your own for example)? What if you have only one child and won’t have any more (it became impossible)? What if you wanted to be a millionaire by 40 and it didn’t happen? You can tell yourself that you will become a millionaire by 60, but it is a new goal. It means you’ve failed. You didn’t accomplish what you’d plan to accomplish. Even if you will become a millionaire by 60 you can still feel like failure because your initial goal was to achieve it by 40. What if you die at 55?

To me life goals suck.

I wrote that once you’ve arrived one option is to find another life goal, and then a yet another, and then one more after that (that having multiple life goals, or, even better, an infinite number of life goals is OK). Actually it sucks too, but a little less than having only one tangible goal. Why? Because you will chase those damn tangible goals (one by one) and the outcome can be miserable too. What if you didn’t manage to achieve your second or third life goal? You will feel that to some degree you failed in life. Which would never happen if you knew nothing about life goals.

Reconsider if you need a life goal. If we, people, need life goals. I think we all are being pressured into figuring them out (the sooner the better) by the society (consisting of people who, for the most part, mindlessly mimic others) and then we end up having such, or similar, dilemmas.

I’m not saying Have no goals in life whatsoever. Goals are not bad. I’m saying Question the need to have a (tangible) life goal. Question the assumed benefit of having one.