Thursday, May 09, 2019

To Constantly Pursue Goals Is to Live in Near-Continuous Failure

Our back deck

I have a to-do list before me this morning. That's helpful. And, I get a good feeling from accomplishing things. But constant, never-ending "to-doing" overwhelms "being. If that happens, it's not good. There's something not right about constant goal-setting.

Some people live by setting goals and achieving them. Upon achievement, they set their eyes on another goal. Twenty thousand steps a day becomes common, so we'll shoot for thirty thousand. 

People who live by setting goals experience near-constant failure. They spend more time pursuing their goal, than they enjoy the fruits of completion. The more one lives for achieving goals, the less will one find rest and peace. (This is not only a biblical concept, but an Aristotelian one as well. It concerns our telos, which is not, in either, constant striving.)

Oliver Burkeman explains this.

"When you approach life as a sequence of milestones to be achieved, you exist “in a state of near-continuous failure.” Almost all the time, by definition, you’re not at the place you’ve defined as embodying accomplishment or success. And should you get there, you’ll find you’ve lost the very thing that gave you a sense of purpose—so you’ll formulate a new goal and start again." (Quoted in Adam Alter, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, p. 117)

A never-ending "to-do" list hinders a person from "arriving." Their "doing" swallows up their "being."

Followers of Jesus focus on obedience, not goal-setting. To "obey" comes from the Latin ob audere." ("Audio.") Listening, hearing, emerges out of being with God, in his presence. Famously, our "doing" should come from our "being." When this happens, a "goal" is a good thing, if it means going after something God has called us to do. 

When we abide in Christ, we are not trying to achieve something. To us, Christ has achieved all that matters. We join him in the fruits of his victory, and mission. He leads us. We follow. Faithfulness, not success, is our reason for living.


My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God

Leading the Presence-Driven Church

I am writing... (because I believe God has called me to write)...

Encounters with the Holy Spirit (Co-edited with Janice Trigg - June 2019 - I submitted the manuscript this week.)

Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I will then co-write our book on Relationships