Having No Goals

Back in the mid-1990s Catherine Hennesssey was running for mayor. I was a very casual acquaintance of hers at the time, but this was enough to have me drafted to serve on her campaign team, or at least to circle around it curiously.

Somehow it came to pass that Martin Rutte, another friend of Catherine’s, and an author, speaker and consultant of some regard, donated his services to Catherine’s campaign in the form of a workshop for the aforementioned campaign team.

A motley bunch we were, covering most walks and stages of life. We gathered on Water St. in a vacant townhouse on a Saturday morning for the festivities. Although the specific ontological details of the morning are lost to time, the general subject of the seminar concerned identification of personal goals, roadblocks to achieving those goals and finally steps that could be taken to work around or smash through the roadblocks.

I did not do well at this.

Other people did. I remember one participant talking about how she wanted to break into film (she did), another talking about how she wanted a cottage on the shore (she has one now). There was discussion of career and family, love and relations. It was an unusually intimate exercise for people many of whom knew very little of each other.

I maintained that I had no goals. For Martin, trained in the arts of getting ornery or un-self-fulfilled people to discover the hidden goals within themselves, this presented a problem. I could not have no goals, he maintained. I must have roadblocks in the way of my goals in the way of my roadblocks.

He came at me this way, and he came at me that way. I held fast. I was simply being honest: I had no goals. Finally, after 45 minutes of thrust and parry Martin gave up.

He decided to come to terms with the fact that I had no goals. And that was that.

I had cause to think of that morning this afternoon when I called an old friend, out of the blue, to see how he was doing.

Well and not well, he said.

I asked him what he meant.

And he relayed a complicated tale that ended up with anti-anxiety drugs, a daily course of which he is on to this day.

I asked him what this meant for everyday life, and he said the most noticeable side-effect is that he totally lacks ambition. He can operate fine on a day to day basis, but he has no desire to set or strive towards longer term career, work and life goals.

And, he added, he’s more productive, and happier, than he’s been in 20 years.

Maybe he should talk to Martin.


Holla's picture
Holla on November 12, 2003 - 01:42 Permalink

I have always wondered if I was alone in being a person who
hates setting goals and pursuing them. I have pondered long enough to come to the following conclusions. The reasons can be either of:
a. You just like to be different from others at any cost (everybody has goals and are so stereotyped in pursuing the same things, so you want to be different).
b. You find it too stressful to fight failure along the way to a goal and maybe not even enjoy the reaching of the goal just because the path was so demanding.
c. You are not too unhappy about what life dishes out to you and hence are very happy the way you are. I mean you only work if you are not happy with what you have.

We humans are built to be goal seeking devices, so is it
cant be a manifestation of the DNA’s tricks which is making
some people this way, can it ?

Any thoughts from the author of the article “Having No Goals” ?