Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Worthy Goals

What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.” --Victor Frankl

This is the first quote in The UPositive Guide to Goal Attainment for Creative People (available from www.UPositive.com). It's an important thought: not only that people need goals, but need goals that are larger and more meaningful than the everyday. What goal is actually worthy of your true self? Of your ‘largest’ self? What goal is big enough and encompassing enough to be worthy of your soul?

Notice, too, that Frankl doesn’t speak about the attainment of the goal, but of the “striving and struggling” for it. He isn’t referring to the success or failure of reaching the goal, but of the process of living toward that goal.

We often make our goals too small. We envision only that which we are willing to think we CAN reach. What would happen if we made our goals large enough that reaching them stops being the issue, but striving and struggling for them becomes the purpose of our days and nights?

I’m impressed by a number of the movies Robert Redford has chosen to act in. Putting aside my attraction to the man for a moment (not his looks, but him)… I have thought often about what common thread runs through many of these films: Brubaker; Havana; Milagro Beanfield Wars; and Quiz Show (in reverse), among others. What I see in these is a main character who becomes bigger than himself (in Quiz Show, smaller) by acting from a private passion or commitment. By engaging in the process, they become more human, more effective; their actions extend farther past themselves into the world; they make more of an impact than they could imagine even in their own minds.

If we commit to a larger vision, something we might not even believe we can reach, and commit to the process, how much farther along the path we might get! I have a little sign framed in my house that reads: “Reach for the moon: even if you fail you land among the stars.” It reminds me of just this: the farther I reach, the farther I’ll get. If I aim for a large, distant goal, even if I don’t get there, I’ll get farther than if I reach for a small goal that is a sure thing.

I remember in the ‘60s and ‘70s when we had the audacity to try to end world hunger. We haven’t done it yet. Knowing we wouldn’t accomplish it in 40 years…we might have given it up. But look how much closer we are than if we hadn’t taken it on as a goal then. There are food banks all across America. There are hunger relief programs all across the world. Even the US Postal Service conducts a food drive: we started that ‘way back when. So many more people eat now; so many fewer starve. Do we still have a very long way to go to alleviate world hunger? You bet we do. Might we achieve that in the next 40 years? Who knows? But if we continue to aim for it, we’ll end up with a lot fewer hungry people than would exist if we decided it was an “impossible” goal and gave it up.

And, what are you willing to attain, even by miracle? If you don’t engage in the process, even a miracle can’t get you there. How would you feel if you find a goal worthy of that stress and strain, worthy of your soul---and by your daily efforts (and miracle, if necessary)---you do reach it?

So what goals are worthy of your striving and struggling in 2009? What are you willing to stress yourself for? What are you willing to maybe fail at reaching just to get that much closer?