Goal Setting and Achievement: Part 1- Why We Set Goals

I am currently reading Maps of Meaning by Jordan Peterson, a book about the creation, implementation, and importance of belief systems. The book opens with a distinction between the scientific and religious/mythological world view:

“The world can be validly construed as a forum for action [religion/mythology], or as a place of things [science].”

The world as a forum for action implies a value hierarchy which guides our behavior, determining the worthwhileness of our actions. The journey of self-understanding and personal development is one of learning those values and acting in accordance with them.

Bracing for the Journey Ahead

The men’s bathroom in our academy has the words of Friedrich Nietzsche displayed in big charcoal letters:

“He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any how.”

We put this in the academy to remind our students, especially in times of physical exhaustion, that their reasons for training are greater than the pains and frustrations of that training; our goals provide the spiritual fuel to move forward in the face of adversity. Across from this quote is a drawing of Atlas upholding the world, a symbol of responsibility. My recent study of Jordan Peterson has highlighted this importance:

(Paraphrasing) Life is suffering. We must accept that and move forward in spite of it. Acting honestly, we work toward the finest ideal we can conceive. Within this pursuit, the meaning in our lives will be in proportion to the responsibility we adopt. The adoption of responsibility is the bulwark against unnecessary suffering and that which allows us to navigate necessary suffering well.

Our bathroom walls at the academy remind us of the significance of our practice. Nietzsche teaches that a worthy ideal makes suffering bearable. Atlas demonstrates the importance of adopting responsibility.

These reminders are imperative. A life of personal development is difficult. We spend our whole lives becoming: playing the role of the phoenix as we daily burn off feathers, letting go of what we are so that we may become more. We do this by embracing the role of the hero: the knower who dances on the edge of the known and the unknown, venturing into areas of incompetence so as to acquire strength, and then returning to his or her community with that hard-won boon to improve the lives of others.

Why We Set Goals

It is our obligation to become the highest version of ourselves. None of us know the impact we could have on the world around us if we truly “sorted ourselves out.” The task of a lifetime is to find out. Our goals are expressions of the values which guide our development. Our humanity depends on the quality of those goals, and the sincerity and systems with which we pursue them.

In the second part of this four-part series, we will discuss how to set goals that maximize our development and our impact on the world around us.

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