New Years, A Time for New Goals

Ha ha, just kidding. As I wrote last time, I’m not really big on goals. I used to be, I think most people are; it’s in the way we’re raised. Get a degree, get a job, get married, have kids, buy a house, buy a car, retire, sit on the couch watching TV until your brain turns to oatmeal, and die.

Okay, that’s a helluva list of goals, but two questions. First, if you’re busy pursuing the goal, what exactly are you doing with your life? Are you enjoying yourself? Do you have anything in your life outside of the pursuit of the next goal? And when you attain it (if you attain it) what then? Do you really want to find yourself on the couch at 55, with your brain turning to mush, looking back and thinking, where did my life go?

Second, what if you can’t achieve the goal? What then? What if you have a goal which is life defining, and you fail to achieve it? That happened to me 34 years ago, and missing it was a life altering shock. A shock that took a long time to work through, especially considering I was completely goal oriented. I had nothing to fall back on, no back up plan at all.

Someday I may tell that story more fully, but not here, and not now. It doesn’t really pertain to the main topics I write about, other than the fact that, had I achieved that goal, I probably wouldn’t have followed the path that led me here today.

So, instead, let me take you back 8 years, and let’s check off the list. I had:

  • 2 degrees
  • 1 wife
  • 2 kids
  • 3 cars
  • a job, in my field of expertise yet

But I was miserable, stressed out and angry. My wife and I fought way too much, I didn’t give my boys the quality, or quantity of attention that all little boys deserve. My life was what a co-worker described in another context as a black, swirling vortex of despair.

How could this be? The only goals I hadn’t yet achieved were financial independence and retirement. Maybe those being at least 20 years away, so far away there was no glimpse of them on the horizon, and nothing immediately in front of me, contributed to my misery. I don’t know, I’ll have to think on that.

But in the midst of it all a funny thing happened, around kid 2’s first birthday. My wife and I rediscovered yoga (Bikram Yoga, to be specific) and it was life altering. You see, with yoga there’s no end goal. Oh, you can set goals for yourself, I will:

  • get (x) deep into (y) posture, and hold it for 30 seconds
  • go every day for a year (yes, people actually do this)
  • learn to do the standing splits, yada yada yada.

But, stick around long enough, hear them tell you, “There is no end goal in yoga” often enough and you realize, they’re right. There is no end goal, only a process of continuous improvement. And you can learn to apply that to your entire life.

Marriage isn’t a goal. Children aren’t a goal. My job isn’t a goal. And this little blog isn’t a goal.

I wrote last time, “Goals are for suckers, winners have systems.”

The more I think about this, the more I realize that, while I agree completely with the broad stroke it paints, I quibble in the details. It’s not that goals are for suckers, it’s that winners use goals as a way to mark successes in their systems. They’re for keeping score.

So, do I have goals? Hell yes. But I have no goal so huge, so important, that failing to achieve it will put me into a bottle trying to drown the misery. Instead I’m creating and tweaking systems to achieve the outcomes I desire. Systems that:

  • I enjoy implementing
  • Have more than one possible positive outcome
  • Are interlinked and
  • Reinforce one another

Let’s bring this post back to the beginning, posture, and the series of exercises I practice for improved posture (I may have posted a few of them here, somewhere along the way and, yes, I will get back to that soon…promise), exercises are distilled out of yoga and Pilates classes. But think on all the pixels I’ve spilled on the health and wellbeing benefits of regular yoga.

And think on all the related benefits to that;

  • Stronger marriage
  • Better relationship with the boys
  • Improved mindset and general wellbeing

It’s all interlinked, and self reinforcing. None of it really has a measurable goal attached to it, but the outcomes are all positive. Best of all, everything I do in these pursuits is something I enjoy, so at the end, I’m not going to be Basil Fawlty moping in his office:

Zoom! What was that? That was your life, mate.