Stop Setting Goals


 “You’re not entitled to the fruit of your labor, you’re only entitled to your labor.”

This wisdom comes from chapter 2, verse 47 of the Hindi holy book, the Bhagavad-Gita

It nails the mark.

Reading this passage precipitated my termination of setting goals as it led me to realize the foolishness of the endeavor. 

Like many, I was taught early in life to set goals as a way to inspire action, cultivate clarity, and work toward an achievement. But the thing is, goals fail you. At least they did me. They present as an oasis in a chaotic world but are only a mirage. 

Goals seduce us into thinking if we work hard, the outcome we seek is supposed to materialize. But as the Hindu deity Krishna reminds us, results are not dependent only upon our efforts. There are far more factors at play, most beyond our control. 

So then what? Do we take a defeatist posture? And resign ourselves to toil aimlessly without any direction? Nay. 

To paraphrase of an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."

Instead of goals, today I decide upon a destination. I ask, "Where is it I want to go?" or "Where do I want to take this?" It sounds like goal setting, but it is not.

Goals are different from destinations. Goals are something to be obtained while destinations are places to go. Personally, I'd much rather go places and be given opportunities for new experiences and insights than collect more stuff. 

The beauty of a destination mindset is all decisions regarding the tactics of what-to-do next are take care of. When the destination is decided the avenue creates itself. What needs to be done next is whatever keeps one on their chosen path.

The path is fashioned by all the work performed as well as avoided. And it is what Krishna was saying:

 The labor is the fruit. 

Truthfully, there is no other fruit. Neither to be had nor to be earned nor enjoyed. Working hard doesn’t entitle us to any rewards. Working hard entitles us only to the joys of our work.

We cannot like the idea of goals but hate the journey. We must love the journey, every step of the way, the good, the bad, the ugly, the entirity of every moment.

And I've discovered, if immersed in the journey whilst enjoying our labor, the arrival to the destination tends to be swifter than anyone could anticipate. 


Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm 

Jonathan Marcus