Saturday, May 21, 2011

Of Goals and Dreams, Part I

I tend to be a very goal-oriented person. I have a list of reading goals pinned to a cork-board in my room. I have cooking goals enumerated on this site. I've set goals for myself involving time, finances, practicing, organizing, and a host of other things.

My goal-oriented readers understand how motivating goals can be. Short-term goals can be a great way to force oneself to be more effective and productive.

But there is a danger inherent in goal-setting, too. Small goals must be a part of a bigger picture to be meaningful. Attainable goals that lead nowhere can be as fruitless as no goals at all.

"Without a vision the people perish." - Proverbs 29:18

No number of accomplished goals will be fulfilling if they don't ultimately lead towards a dream. If one doesn't have a long-term vision, dream, or goal for his or her life, smaller goals becomes simply meaningless steps.

Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years forever changed the way I thought about goals. I started analyzing my short-term goals in terms of the bigger story that I wanted my life to be. Rather than just mindlessly setting reachable goals, I'm trying to spend more time thinking about where those goals ultimately lead.
"If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable." - Seneca

If short-term goals are simply ends within themselves, failing to reach them becomes quickly frustrating. However, seeing my short-term goals as a part of a bigger picture allows me to maintan a healthy long-term perspective, even if I fail to reach the short-term goals in exactly the way I plan.

Goals are what we do during the day. But vision is who we are in the dark of the night. Goals are a natural result of a clear vision. But without a vision, goals can quickly become meaningless trivialities. Goals can provide immediate satisfaction and a sense of direction. But a long-term dream provides a sense of security even when struggles and difficulties arise in the short-term. 

"When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there." - Zig Ziglar

Reassesing the way I think about goals has changed the way I treat my goals. I'm trying to spend less time obsessing over specific goals and more time thinking about where those goals are leading me. Rather than fretting about specific places where I fail to meet my own short-term expectations, I'm trying to focus more on the big picture and on where my short-term goals are ultimately taking me.

Do you have a clear long-term vision for yourself? Are your goals leading you there?

Continue to Part II of this series.

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