At the end of the last article I suggested you should keep thinking, “I am goals. Goals are me.” Why should you do that? Coming from someone who, ordinarily, doesn’t like to give advice, that’s a pretty big statement I’ve made!
Knowing that goals exist, doesn’t necessarily help us learn what impact they have on our daily experience of living. Goals are central to all control systems. And control systems are how we’re designed. Each of us is one giant control system comprised of a gazillion smaller control systems all controlling in one massive knitted network configuration.
The more we can understand ourselves as a rambunctious conglomeration of controllers, and the more we come to grips with how goals go about being goals, the more we might be able to ensure that most of our controllers, most of the time, are controlling a common good. Common only to our own immense, hierarchical hive of controllers that is.
Some important points might be helpful.
First, our own inventory of specifications for both how the world should be, and also, how we should be in that world, are ours and ours alone. All our goals sprout organically from the tendencies, characteristics, propensities, and abilities we have been endowed with, as well as the environments our endowments are immersed in and fed from.
No-one can implant a goal in our heads, and nor can they extract one. I suppose a frontal lobotomy could be regarded as removing a whole bunch of goals but I’m thinking only of non-surgical approaches here. I’ve heard people talk about internal goals from time to time as well as shared goals. The first term is redundant because goals are only ever internal, and goals, nestled snuggly as they are within individual neural networks, can never be shared, except in a metaphorical sense. We can’t pass goals around like we might a charcuterie board.
Second, related to the first point is the fact that no-one can achieve or satisfy another person’s goals. It is true that many of us use other people as we go about experiencing our own personal goals related to friendships, parenting, partnerships, coaching, spinal manipulations, managing, leading, helping, and so on. Even though other people are integral to all these goals, our goals will be forever out of direct contact with people other than ourselves. Individuals are the only people who ever know if and when their goals are being fulfilled.
Third, no goal is an island. The pursuit of one goal will have implications and repercussions for other goals. Sometimes a goal will assist in the realisation of other goals and sometimes it will get in the way.
Fourth, we mostly become aware of goals when they are not being achieved. There are, of course, those cherished moments when you win first prize or achieve the promotion or obtain some other hard-fought outcome. For the most part, however, goal attainment is much more mundane. Most people, most of the time, just navigate themselves through one day after another keeping an endless parade of goals well-tended and satisfied. It’s when a goal is suddenly thwarted or impeded that it becomes the focus of attention.
So, whenever you’re irritated, disgruntled, or otherwise out of sorts, you’re getting important information about one or more goals that need feeding. Hungry goals can never be ignored indefinitely. Thinking about periods of unsettled tetchiness can teach us valuable things about ourselves – if we’re interested in learning. We can discover goals, expectations, and preferences that we didn’t know we had.
Fifth, goals differ enormously in their variability. Your goal about the right amount of pressure to apply to the accelerator pedal, for example, is varied constantly in order to achieve goals such as avoiding other cars and driving safely. These goals vary hardly at all.
Sixth, and final for now, everything we do, all day, everyday, is always related to our goals. No-one is ever “doing nothing”. Doing nothing is always doing something in terms of keeping a goal in a particular, predetermined state. Sometimes, it’s true, there’s a different sort of doing nothing which can feel more like being stuck or immobilised. This situation, once again, has everything to do with goals, but this occurs when goals are pushing in opposite directions.
Understanding the inter-relatedness of goals can help to maintain focus and harmony. Frequently, when I walk out into our living area, my goal of a neat and tidy family space takes a massive knockout blow. What I see instead of neatness is a haphazard mosaic of: one or more Lego creations in different states of construction; the crusts of toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches; several pieces of technology such as a laptop, iPad, and various remote controls; at least one piece of clothing that had been worn to school and is now discarded along with the accompanying shoes, hat, and backpack; numerous worksheets completed to a greater or lesser extent; and perhaps some loose change that hasn’t yet been accounted for.
Immersion in a goal that is so off balance is never a pleasant experience, however, I’ve found it is possible to get to a place where my peace of mind is not clobbered by this scene quite so much. If I bring to mind my goal of a connected family unit rather than a neat and tidy lounge room, I feel blessed instead of battered. I can get to a place where I genuinely realise that I’m actually lucky to be in a situation where the living area I share can be messed up like this. Don’t get me wrong! Anyone who knows me, knows how much I value neatness and tidiness, but focussing on clan rather than clutter definitely takes the sting out of the mess. It all depends on which goal you have on your radar.
Your goals are your goals. No-one can put a goal in there or otherwise make you adopt a goal you don’t want to have. Sometimes, without a doubt, you will do things you think you don’t want to do but, somewhere in there, you’re only doing it because one of the goals that is you is insistent.
Goals, for the most part, are not very tolerant. Some goals will allow a little bit of room to move but, generally, goals keep you pretty well constrained. The goals regarding your body temperature, for example, don’t flip flop around. They don’t decide that, today, they’ll try out 92F and, tomorrow, they’ll push the bar with 107F. No, no, no. The temperature goal is what it is, and you’ll get a message to shiver or put on a sweater or open a window or whatever needs to happen to keep your body temperature the way it is supposed to be.
Some goals, on the other hand, allow quite a bit of latitude. The dirty dishes pile beside the sink can get quite high before there’s a large enough gap between our tidy kitchen standard and the way it currently appears. With other goals, however, such as the safety of our children, there is much less wiggle room. We can respond instantly and decisively when that is required.
So, all that you are and all that you might become has everything to do with the goals of you that currently exist and the goals that might be created in the future. The ceaseless creation and maintenance of a vast constellation of interconnected goals is one of Nature’s more profound miracles. Developing even a rudimentary understanding of the way in which this miracle works will help to realise potentials that are currently inconceivable. We have barely lifted our foot to set out on the journey of discovering all that humanity can be, but, with the instruction manual tucked under our arm, a bright, even golden, future seems like it might just be within reach.