Volumes having been written over the years on the subject of goals, and, indeed, there’s no question that goals are important. But the more I reflect on the subject of goals, and the more I draw from my own experience and the experience of others, the more convinced I am that striving toward goals is not a means to an end. I long ago became convinced that the healthiest way to live life is to make striving an end in itself.
Those who wish their lives away in anticipation of achieving some long-awaited goal do themselves a grave disservice. Often, it isn’t even a specific goal they are seeking. Instead, they embody the future in the shadowy allure of some undefinable promised land down the road. Promised lands, however, are hard to come by.
Perhaps you’ve read Robert J. Hastings’ essay “The Station,” in which he metaphorically described all of us as being on a mythical train of life, rolling relentless down the tracks toward the future. As we travel on this train of life, we keep believing that just around the next bend we’re going to arrive at the station, a beautiful little red station house that will signify the panacea moment when all the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.
When we arrive at the station, there will be a big crowd cheering, flags will be waving, bands will be playing, and that’s when all our goals will be achieved and all our desires fulfilled. Finally, we will have reached a permanent state of euphoria, of pure joy.
But there’s one problem with this picture: It’s a fantasy — a pure fantasy — because the reality is that there is no station. It doesn’t exist. And if there is no station, you had better enjoy the trip down the tracks.
The truth is that the moment never quite arrives. There’s always one more deal to close, one more goal to achieve, one more hill to climb — which is why it’s wise to live in the present. The best day really is today.
Voltaire gave us wise advice when he cautioned, “Do not anxiously expect what has not yet come. Do not vainly regret what has already past.” Kay Lyons put it much simpler when she said, “Yesterday is a cancelled check; tomorrow is a promissory note; today is the only cash you have, so spend it wisely.”
Forget about today being the first day of the rest of your life. With Harvey, Irma, and North Korea dominating the headlines each day, it makes one all too aware that today could be the last day of the rest of your life.
To the best of my knowledge, no one ever said on his deathbed, “Gee, I wish I had spent more time thinking about the future.” I’ve got news for you, the future doesn’t need your attention. It has an annoying habit of arriving ahead of schedule — without your help.
Like most everything else in life, moderation is the best policy when it comes to goals. No matter how admirable and exciting your goals may be, day-to-day life loses its meaning if your main reason for living is just to look forward to the day when those goals are achieved. When you reach the top of the mountain, you don’t want to be asking yourself, “Is that all there is?”
All this by way of saying that it’s possible to achieve all your goals in life but miss out on life itself in the process. Better to live in the present (not for the present, but in the present) by finding meaning and purpose in your daily life. To be sure, the achievement of goals adds happiness to life, but it’s the journey that provides the greatest amount of joy.
While it’s true that you cannot change the inevitable, you can change your attitude toward today. Cherish the moment by concentrating on whatever you’re doing every second of the day.