I took some time off towards the end of the year. The idea was to reflect on the past year and to set goals for the upcoming year. Yet, instead of coming back with a list of goals, I came back with a list of habits I want to develop in my everyday life. I realised that this is much more important than setting the goals. I would even dare to say:
there is no point in setting long term goals
Long term goals are not only hard to come up with, but they are also very intimidating. Sometimes, their pure size is overwhelming. Instead of motivating, they bring fear and anxiety. They paralyse us.
If we want to flourish we need to become antifragile.
Another aspect which works against goals is the uncertainty we are all experiencing. We never know what risks or opportunities might be in front of us. Especially, nowadays, when everything is changing so fast, setting a goal and sticking to it might be counter-productive. We, as humans, change constantly. So do our skills and interests. The same can be said of our external environment. We do not know what lies ahead of us. By not having sticky goals we allow ourselves to adjust the direction and let other things go. We invite opportunities. That is true resilience in today’s world. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes in his book “Antifragile”:
Antifragility has a singular property of allowing us to deal with the unknown, to do things without understanding them - and do them well… We are largely better at doing than we are at thinking, thanks to antifragility.
The only thing we need is a broad direction.
Otherwise, we might end up randomly pursuing something and getting lost. And by direction, I think of systems that will get us moving, rather than specific goals. Not where we want to be in one or three years, but how our average day is going to look like. Build a system that will guarantee we make progress every day. Small steps but consistently taken.
It’s our choice how we feel
There is one more, final argument why everyday habits are more important for me. Every day we decide on how we want to spend our time. Whether we want to do things that make us happy or not. I always enjoyed the path much more than reaching the destination. By building habits, I give myself a chance to be happy every day (although it doesn’t always work that well…).