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Goals: Life Preserver? Or Straight Jacket? March 11, 2015

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Life Balance, Mindfulness.

Pluto-RollerskatingSometimes life seems messy, disorganized, and chaotic.  We get busy tidying it up by setting self-improvement goals for ourselves.

That’s good, right?

To always be striving to be better than our previous selves?

We may believe that goals help us reach out and become more than we already are . . . but sometimes they do just the opposite.

Instead of encouraging us to explore possibilities in the here and now, they act as straight-jackets, tethering us to what we wanted yesterday.

Who you are now is a product of what you once wanted.

TiggerFor example, what if we set the goal to do more writing and then stumble across a bunch of overripe bananas sitting on the counter?

We want to make banana bread, but we don’t have time because we haven’t met our self-imposed arbitrary word count for the day.

So we let the bananas rot, instead of pursuing their possibilities.

No wonder the cat looks at us askance.

Do goals keep us afloat . . . or drag us down?

Perhaps it depends on the goal.

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related link:  Helicone ~ Incredible Science



1. Kate Crimmins - March 11, 2015

Banana cake would top my list every time! Grab the opportunities and everything else falls in place.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Agreed! We never know when we’re going to be hit by that proverbial bus so we might as well LIVE!

2. Jill Weatherholt - March 11, 2015

It’s good to have goals, but something that gives me joy will always take precedent over a goal.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Perhaps the best goals are those that add joy to life ~ making us feel better as we strive to be better.

To Do List:

1. Eat Chocolate
2. Dance
3. Laugh

Aah . . . that’s better! 😎

3. Hariod Brawn - March 11, 2015

Goals are for games.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

She shoots! She scores! :mrgreen:

Hariod Brawn - March 11, 2015

A chocolate star to the girl with the green face. ⭐

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Ooh . . . sparkly! ⭐ I like it!

4. NancyTex - March 11, 2015

Kathy Gottberg wrote an interesting article on “Be-Good versus Get-Better” as each relates to goals and goal attainment. I thought it was a really interesting way to think about mindset and goals. http://smartliving365.com/good-get-better-choice-says-lot/

Goals are great, but it’s the motivation BEHIND the goal (or goal attainment) that is most interesting to me.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Excellent link, NT. People who set goals to impress others may end up in a straight jacket ~ constantly looking over their shoulders to see who’s watching..

Those who set goals to grow and learn are a bit more buoyant!

5. brickhousechick - March 11, 2015

Oh, I want one of those toys! Except that I would just play with it all day and not achieve any of my goals.

Goals are tricky like ‘to do lists.’ You feel good when you achieve one or cross something off the list but there is always more waiting to be done. I vote for the banana bread. YUM!

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Isn’t that helicone fascinating to watch? I included a link in case anyone wanted to buy one for their meditation room.

NT posted a link to an excellent article on the kinds of goals we set and the motivation behind them. I’m happiest when going with the flow rather than doing something today because it seemed like a good idea yesterday. This morning, a 2-mile walk on the beach seemed “just the thang!” 😎

6. uju - March 11, 2015

There’s a big divide between living for the moment and living for tomorrow. Most actually advise setting targets for where we would want to be tomorrow… I believe that. But then I also know how easy it is to lose sight of what is here right now while we obsess over what may be.

Each option has its own perks I’d say… So how do we create a balance?
For one one can’t keep getting distracted by everything else eg sitting bananas,when the book won’t write itself.
And we can’t refuse to see the banana because we must write the book.


A scale of preference could help? Do what’s most important to oneself first and then all the others will fit right in. That way we’ll find fulfillment in living each day.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

It can be tough to find the right balance between living for the moment and living in the moment.

Living for the moment often results in “stupid” decisions because we tend to focus on hedonistic pleasures ~ we eat too much, we drink too much, we talk too much, we play too many video games, we fritter away our life like the grasshopper.

Living in the moment means looking around at possibilities at our disposal as and where we are and picking the one with the ripest fruit ~> in the flow of the now, we eat when hungry, we sleep when tired, and we chop wood and carry water with balance.

After enlightenment, the laundry. ~ Zen Proverb

Val Boyko - March 11, 2015

Great point Nancy!

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Thanks, Val. You know the now!

7. suzicate - March 11, 2015

I’m not a big goal setter, except for things like going to the grocery store to pick something up, perfect a gluten-free bread recipe, get my taxes done, enjoy the sunshine, decide where to go on vacation…looks like my goals are for my own selfish enjoyment; except for the tax one!

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

I like your goals, Suzi ~> short term, designed to enhance life in the here and now.

Goals are great if we see them as fluid and flexible, not set in stone. E.g. someone says they want to, say, “write a novel.” Fine. Flexible. Fluid. Plenty of room for other possibilities.

But some then break that “elephant” into bite-sized chunks (per their guru’s advice) ~> “I’m going to write 2173 words a day, every day, no matter what, no excuses.” Now, instead of going for an “average” (2573 one day, 1773 the next), they are convinced that they must reach 2173 words each and every day or they are never going to reach their goal of writing a novel and they will end up a lonely loser.

(Still others don’t even want to enjoy the journey of “writing the novel” ~ they just want the bragging rights for reaching the destination of “having written.”)

Hmm . . . maybe necessary evils are destination based. For example. we are glad to have the taxes “done” even if we don’t enjoy the journey of doing them. 😛

Here’s to surviving tax season with our sense of humor intact!

8. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? - March 11, 2015

Such a good point – I’m always working on balance, and I’ve learned how to manage my “most important tasks” for the day, and how to let some go so that I can live my life!

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Some days I “eat the frog first” and get it out of the way, making the rest of the day seem like play. Other days, I procrastinate.

It’s all about balance. 😛

I just realized that the helicone is perfect for this post ~ it’s all about balance too.

9. thecontentedcrafter - March 11, 2015

Quite so! “like to’ over ‘have to’ any day. Cute interactive thingy 🙂 [Lack of coffee=lack of English ability]

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Some times, we “have to” do something . . . Right Now! We have no more wiggle room (due to prolonged procrastination).

But most of the time life isn’t that urgent.

We have some flexibility about the order and timing of tasks ~ so we can cook on days when cooking seems appealing and paint on days when nothing else will do.

But only AFTER we put the iron away!

thecontentedcrafter - March 11, 2015

😀 I hear you!

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

U iz Smart! Here’s to healing well . . . with only “the lesson” left behind!

10. L. Marie - March 11, 2015

Great thought! I say make the banana bread and let your writing marinate while you bake the bread. I might have the goal to write, but if I’m stuck on a scene and can’t BS my way through it, I need to do something else until I know what to do with the scene.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Yes! If I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall, I stop and reassess.

I much prefer to do things as and when the spirit moves me ~ I get better results than when I force myself to stick to “The Plan.”

11. Pix Under the Oaks - March 11, 2015

I hear you Nancy! That’s why I like to fly by the seat of my pants… 😉

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Yes!!! Keep on flying!

12. Val Boyko - March 11, 2015

Goals are for games … love that comment from Hariod.
Such a great discussion here.
We are so programmed to have goals in our youth and as adults, we forget that we are the ones who made them up … and can unmake them at any time when we realize they no longer work for us.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Exactly right! Most days I’d rather go with the flow than force myself to check pre-determined boxes off my To Do List. I get more of what I want done done when I do it when I want to do it.

I love to cook when I’m in the mood . . . and hate it when I’m not.

13. Silver in the Barn - March 11, 2015

Obviously I am not alone in being sidelined by metaphorical bananas. My goal setting days are long behind me and good riddance to them.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Same here! When inspiration strikes (be it bananas or a walk on the beach), I like to “just do it” without worrying about goals I set yesterday, the day before, or a month ago.

I find I enjoy the journey more when I’m actively steering the ship (or going with the flow) rather than getting stuck on auto-pilot.

14. elizabeth2560 - March 11, 2015

As you say it depends on the goal and I agree that sometimes long-term goals may inhibit short-term pleasurable interruptions.

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Plus, if we have our nose to the grind-stone madly churning away at one long term goal, we may miss the chance to pursue another long term goal/ opportunity . . . better suited for who we are now.

elizabeth2560 - March 11, 2015

Ah, yes! I have made that mistake before. 🙂

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

It’s easy to do when we’re focused on what’s in front of us, while oblivious to all the rest. 🙄

15. reocochran - March 11, 2015

I like to give my life outlines and lists, but will throw them out the window when it comes to love, fun and family! I am one who probably will take your title literally and let you know, Nancy, I am one who may need both a strait jacket and a life preserver!

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Now that’s balance, Robin! To live among lists & outlines, without getting strangled by them.

16. JOriginal Muse - March 11, 2015

At the risk of being perceived as a little ADHD, I could sometimes go from room to room and become distracted from my original goal by noticing something else that needs to be done… Ironically enough, by the end of the day, I end up getting everything done that was really important to me. If not, there’s always Tomorrow… Tomorrow… we love you, Tomorrow… you’re only a day away…

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Yes! To flow from anticipated target to impromptu task while wandering room to room from today to tomorrow.

17. anotherday2paradise - March 11, 2015

Banana and walnut muffins would be my choice. 🙂 I think is so important to be flexible and adaptable, just like that amazing kinetic art video shows. 🙂

nrhatch - March 11, 2015

Banana nut muffins = YUM! The movement in the video is like watching ballet . . . balance!

18. Behind the Story - March 11, 2015

A cool sculpture, and quite a surprise.

I find that after bananas ripen, they save well in the fridge. The skins look bad, but the inside lasts for a week or so. (I like ripe bananas in my smoothies.)

The trick about goals is knowing when to let them go or change them.

nrhatch - March 12, 2015

Our bananas rarely “get away from us” but if they do I toss them into the freezer, peeled, for banana bread or smoothies.

Some folks refuse to relinquish unrealized goals ~> they keep chasing after tarnished stars instead of allowing life to unfold.

Behind the Story - March 12, 2015

I like your phrase: “allowing life to unfold.”

nrhatch - March 12, 2015

Thanks, Nicki! It’s a reminder to me to be flexible with fluid intentions rather than cast iron plans.

19. theonlycin - March 12, 2015

Food for thought, Nancy; I’m sometimes so frantic about lists I’ve made and misplaced that I completely lose my head. Easy does it, I guess. Nice to catch up with your blog again xxx

nrhatch - March 12, 2015

Hi Cin! Delighted to see your post and OB’s smiling face this morning. I keep a notepad for jotted reminders on the desk and schedule appointments/ deadlines on the calendar. That’s enough to keep life on track for us (most days).

My only “goal” at the moment is to “keep breathing.” 😎

20. livelytwist - March 12, 2015

You’ve given us words to ponder. I think that if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll lose focus because there are plenty distractions on the way. I also believe in enjoying where you are on the road to where you’re going. I’m constantly finding the right balance that works for me.

nrhatch - March 12, 2015

Balance allows us to keep one eye on our intended destination while enjoying “detours and distractions” along the way. If we’re enjoying the journey, we win . . . no matter what happens.

“A good traveler has no set plans and is not intent on arriving.”
~ Lao Tzu

21. colonialist - March 12, 2015

Life is not a game of football; goals do need to be flexible!

nrhatch - March 12, 2015

Flexibility is key . . .

All my plans go exactly as planned. As long as I PLAN to “go with the flow” and/or PROCRASTINATE.

22. Luanne - March 12, 2015

Good point! I will try to keep this in mind in a very busy time of my life.

nrhatch - March 12, 2015

Yes! Take a periodic peek at your priorities to see if they are still your priorities.

23. Three Well Beings - March 14, 2015

I love your example with the bananas and the cute photo to illustrate. I relate to the straight jacket way of life–I’m afraid. I think in very recent years I’ve stepped further away from being so “absolute” about goals and I’ve deliberately chosen to be more open to possibility, but there’s still a little voice in my head that badly wants to assert itself towards the old list of goals. In truth, I completely agree with what you’ve said about the straightjacket tethering to yesterday. It’s truly worth consideration!

nrhatch - March 14, 2015

Perhaps when we are “starting out,” we need goals to maintain motivation to provide the basic necessities of life ~ food, clothing, shelter, education, etc. After that, if we continue to strive for “more,” we need to consider whether our goals are for us (e.g., growth and learning) . . . or to impress others.

24. davecenker - March 19, 2015

Cats are certainly much smarter than we give them credit for – and they remind us of it every second of every day! We have four of them to prove it 😉 I love posts that make me think, and this is definitely one of them. It doesn’t help that I really, really, really love bananas. I like what you are saying though – the key for me is self-awareness, always keeping things in perspective and remaining open to any possibility 🙂

nrhatch - March 19, 2015

Absolutely right ~ self-awareness is the best yardstick to use to help us stay afloat! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your perspective.

25. jannatwrites - March 21, 2015

Good point on the goals. We do need to be mindful of when they become too restricting and keep us from exploring other things we hadn’t contemplated when we set the goals in the first place.

nrhatch - March 21, 2015

Many people are blinded to possibilities by goals set by their younger and less experienced selves ~> re-evaluating allows us to move from where we are NOW to where we want to be.

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