If you are currently seeking your purpose or your next goal to hit, this story is for you.
It is not about how your family, teachers, and friends were the ones setting most of your very first goals ever during your childhood.
This text is about your current goals.
⏩Prologue: Where did goals come from?
Goal setting is a common practice developed by human beings for continuously evolving reasons. Originally, goals were survival-oriented. For instance, the following primal goals were and still are triggered by specific signals.
· Hungry? Look for food
· Thirsty? Look for water
· Tired? Get some sleep
Pretty straight forward, aren’t they? It is due to their biological provenance.
In contrast, present-day goals such as “Bringing Paris to run on 80% green energy by the year 2030” or “Helping others set and achieve their goals by publishing stories” seem way more sophisticated than “ search for food “.
We owe this complexity to the human brain and the growth of societies throughout history. The evolution from gathering & hunting tribes to metropolises brought a whole different spectrum of goals.
Let’s start from the beginning. Join me for a time jump into the past. It will help us witness the birth of sophisticated goals.
⌛ Welcome to Year -9119 ⌛ where humans have the same brain structure as you and me. They live in small bands and have their own social rules. We landed within a small “village” settled in middle Africa right between a smelly forest and a loud river.
For an ancient human, the right to belong in such a tribe must be earned.
“ Being useful for my tribe “ is considered as a survival-oriented goal. However, it is far from being a basic instinct such as “eat, drink and sleep”. It is shaped according to several pieces of information. Besides, it considers previous experiences. For example: seeing a member of the tribe abandoned in the forest is a memory, hard to forget. As horrible as it seems today, please keep in mind that this kind of decision was crucial for ancient tribes to make it against hunger and disease.
► Goal setting is based on rational thinking and previous experience.
Complexity is not only about goal setting, but it is also about the “how to do it” part.
If you aim to “be useful for your tribe”, you could be a good gatherer, a good hunter or someone wise and experienced who teaches the young.
The point is: achieving the same goal has different forms.
Let me introduce you to Vayne who will help us understand her sophisticated ways of achieving her main goal.
Vayne used her excellent eyesight to spot fruit trees during gathering expeditions. She also got better at running across the forest to share information about the freshly-found fruitful spots.
These skills made up of her injured shoulder that keeps her from lifting heavyweights. Otherwise, she would end up abandoned, sacrificed or mercifully killed by her band.
She fulfills her goal. She is an asset to the group thanks to her own set of skills.
This example is inspired by “Sapiens, a brief history of humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari.
► Using their cognitive skills, humans shape individually adapted versions of the same goal.
Did you notice? The pattern followed by Vayne still makes sense nowadays. It is a healthy and flexible approach. I mean, all you must do is pick up a goal then adapt the way of achieving it to your set of skills and voilà!
So why goals seem lame today? Why do we feel trapped? Why, sometimes, nothing makes sense? Why is there a voice in your head telling you to “leave it all and start backpacking around the globe”?
⏩ Chapter 1: Goal Standardisation
We live in an era where most of the instinct-based goals are easily fulfilled. Since you are reading this article, you should have access to the internet. Therefore, it is fairly safe to say that for you: food, water, and shelter are somewhat guaranteed. If you ate only to survive, your freezer would probably be filled with enough food to survive a couple of weeks. If you are feeling a little ill, you could see a doctor within a day. Sometimes within hours or even minutes for emergencies.
► Humans in most countries no longer have to spend their day looking for fruits and avoiding massive sabretooths.
Technology allowed us to reach comfortable lifestyles where survival is easy. You, good madam and good sir, eat better food and have better hygiene than any medieval queen and king.
You have a place to sleep in safely, chill and watch Netflix during your free time. Outdoors, you have tons of leisure activities at your disposal such as movie theatres, stadiums, animated avenues or that particular spot where you hang out with your friends.
This kind of luxury is a consequence of our technological growth combined with the social and economic ones.
► Humans in most countries have acess to healthier physical and mental lifestyles.
It does not stop there. Technology is not only about the breakthroughs themselves. It is about sharing knowledge.
Here, check this out:
Humans have been gathering and hunting for a long time using ancestral skills that barely evolve. Worse, sometimes their knowledge was forgotten then rediscovered. We are talking THOUSANDS of years of VERY SLOW evolution in terms of know-how and transmission of insights.
Hence, back then, humans got stuck in figuring out “how to survive” for millennia. Our best ways of transmitting knowledge were telling stories around fire camps. We did not get to fully benefit from previous ideas and experiences.
In contrast, some 100 years ago we still wrote letters to communicate.
Today, when you get home, Google Home or Alexa would tell you about the most recent discoveries and news. Besides, you could carry dozens of books in your pocket and instantly access more information than Einstein and Freud combined.
There we go! You are examining your perspective right now, aren’t you?
► Accessing endless knowledge became common for most of humans.
Thanks to technology and global experience sharing, survival is no longer the biggest challenge for millions of people. Except, we, humans, are addicted to challenge. It is what drives us. I will talk about “challenge addiction” in another story and explain how it is coded in our ADN. In the meantime, consider it this way: confronting difficulties helps us gain experience and grow. Experienced humans are more likely to survive. Therefore, seeking a challenge is a survival instinct.
► Technology combined with economic and social growths made our basic needs easy to obtain. The knowledge shared worldwide led to innovation. Innovation led us to create and discover new challenges that we, humans, were not aware of.
Allow me to introduce some of the new challenges to you:
“ What is happiness?”
“ How do I find my passion?”
“ What is my purpose in life? “
“Why am I trying to achieve this and that?”
⏩ Chapter 2: The Confusion
To tackle their new concerns, humans all over the world shared their answers and experiences.
Information shared is not only about the goals themselves but also about achieving them. Consider an article entitled “How to become a millionaire through eCommerce” for instance. It contains the goal itself and how to proceed to achieve it.
However, there is way too much information to deal with. We have to choose, sort and select suitable methods and ideas according to tons of parameters.
This information overload led to the appearance of standards and a predefined set of goals and how to achieve them. You could picture them as maps, task lists or user guides.
These standard models spread like crazy because they are:
1- Solid: since they are based on numerous analysis of tons of international data. We are talking about the essence of life experiences shared and discussed across the planet over the decades.
Some of the conclusions are fake and irrelevant. However, the most popular and accessible ones are accurate and efficient.
2- Adaptable thanks to the personal touch available in each of them.
Consider “getting a college degree in medicine” for instance. Both a nursing staff and a surgeon followed the same goal. They adapted it to their preferences and set of skills.
That is how we ended up agreeing that everyone should get a job, a house, a relationship, and children regardless of our background, language, religion, and ethnicity.
► The standard goals are the result of a “rational selection” of human experiences.
If you are being suspicious, it is a good sign. The trap is hidden somewhere within these awesome universal set of goals.
It all comes down a twist. Instead of adapting universal goals to our aspirations, we end up adapting ourselves to fit in the standard patterns.
Imagine that one day, just above noon, you woke up in a deserted highway. The nearest city is hundreds of miles away and no one is driving that abandoned road. Meaning: no Uber to pick you up.
Rest assured you are not empty-handed: you have a book in your pocket. Strangely enough, the book is called “ Learn to drive a formula 1”.
You spent the first hour wandering around and the second one reading the book because, what else is there to do?
Suddenly, Elon Musk shows up in his Teslaman costume: it looks like the Superman outfit but has the Tesla logo instead of the “S”.
At this point, Teslaman is carrying a shiny red Tesla over his left shoulder. He puts down the car as you would do with a bag. Then, he looks at you, walks up to you, smiles and hands you its keys. Finally, the superhero vanishes without saying a word.
The good news is: now you have a way out of the desert.
The other news is: you, my friend, gotta do something that you never did before in this universe: driving a car, a Tesla.
Even though you know the Formula 1 user guide, it won’t be enough. You know it. You will have to adapt and improvise. You would apply some principles learned from the book that you already put away. At some point, you would start messing up with the Tesla until the vehicle starts rolling.
The point is, you didn’t confine yourself to the book. You, progressively, developed your mental user-guide based on your knowledge and experience.
It seems intuitive and obvious. However, common sense is not common practice.
⏩ Chapter 3: The Trap
Nowadays, we tend to stick to standard models and forget about creating our own “ways to do stuff” out of the existing ones.
The reasons behind such behavior are numerous. There are self-oriented ones such as lack of self-confidence and self-love. There are also, social side effects like “the need to blend in”.
You can read “Can’t hurt me “ by David Goggins if you want to dive deep into these factors.
There are also external factors such as education, systems of belief and external influence. Vishen Lakhiani tackles these and many other topics in his book The Code of The Extraordinary Mind. He uses the words: models of reality and Brules: Bullshit rules to describe the outdated systems of belief. I love that book.
Truth is, holding on generic rigid patterns kills the individual experience. A raw execution of a specific plan lacks identity. When such a blind goal-achieving spreads throughout different aspects of the journey called life, we may lose track of who we are and what we want to achieve.
Or worse, we could end up living someone else’s life and achieving someone else’s goals.
To be fair, for some of us, following the existing patterns is the way to go. I mean why bother creating your own path if there is already one perfectly suitable for you? As long as you are not a fish who is trying to climb a tree you should do just fine.
► Standard goals and patterns are awesome results of shared knowledge. However, they turn into deadly traps as soon as we forget to adapt them to our skills and aspirations.
⏩ The Finale: Unlock your GPS
Now that we understood how goal setting and achieving can get lame. It is time we do something about it.
I built the following toolbox. It is inspired by neuroscience, self-growth content and my personal experience. You could see it as core raw material that you can shape according to your preferences and mindset.
🗝️# 1: Set self-centered goals
Self-driven goals are powerful. They are unshakable. They evolve and adapt according to one single parameter: You. Whatever happens around you, your goal remains achievable.
Let’s go through some stories to illustrate the previous statements:
📚 Kayn and Janna are together since the day they met 12 years ago. Today they went separate ways. They showed a lot of courage admitting that their relationship became toxic. However, their mindset is completely different regarding the breakup.
Kayn’s goal was to “ spend his life with Janna and travel the world with her “
After the breakup, his goal was completely smashed. So was his spirit.
On the other hand, Janna’s goal has always been “ being surrounded by love and healthy relationships”.
Therefore, she is sad today, but she knows that their couple made the right call.
Janna managed to grow through the break up because she aims at having healthy relationships.
📚 Viktor who started working right after high school made quite the empire in real estate business. He has always been hardworking, trustworthy and a genuine risk-taker. When his daughter Orianna graduated from high school, Viktor decided to “ Help her become the best civil engineer in the country “.
He completely forgot about her interests and choices. That led to a deterioration of their relationship over the years.
Orianna hardly talks to her father. She is traveling across the world making photographs of natural wonders. Her work is often used in promoting campaigns around wildlife and environmental issues.
She is supported by thousands of online followers. Yet, she lacks the only support she has always wanted: her father’s.
Had Viktor chosen “ being a great father for Orianna”, things would be different today. He would focus on himself being a supportive parent. Hence, Orianna could feel comfortable following her path. They would be a lot closer than they are.
📚 Yasuo is a gifted IT guy. He is sharp and efficient with coding. His goal was to “ Work with google and develop awesome algorithms “. However, he never landed a job interview with them.
Several years later, he understood that his real goal was to “ improve and spread education through smart yet affordable IT solutions “.
He never needed to be a Google employee to achieve his purpose. Google could have been a mean to an end. However, it is far from being the only way.
►The way you define your goal changes the way you tackle it. Choose your words wisely and make it about you.
One of the best books dealing with goal setting and added value is “Start with Why” By Simon Sinek.
🗝️# 2: Use your inner beast: the subconscious mind
As Wim Hof said “your mind, out of control, is your worst enemy. However, in control, it is your greatest ally”
Having your subconscious mind in line with your aspirations leads to better micro decision making. Better decision-making leads to more small wins. Small wins stacked over extended periods lead to fulfilling wild dreams.
Your subconscious mind is an extremely complex algorithm running your micro decision making, thus, your behavior.
Before diving into more wonderful facts about the subconscious mind. let’s talk about the brain:
🧠 The human brain contains 86 billion interconnected neurons. Goal setting is one of the numerous complex functionalities handled by our biological computers.
We could see the brain as the hardware and the mind as the software. Functionalities such as reading, writing, mathematical reasoning, drawing, and singing are apps running on our neurons.
The fascinating fact about the brain is that the software changes the hardware.
I repeat, the software changes the hardware.
Imagine that you could download an app that adds a new camera to your phone.
How awesome would that be?
Neuroplasticity does exactly that within our brains. It is the ability to rewire our brains according to our thoughts and habit patterns. This rewiring process unlocks new functions and strengthens existing ones. It could also delete the outdated, toxic and/or the useless stuff. I would love to tell you more about it. Then again, it is a whole topic for another story.
Your brain operates on two levels: conscious and subconscious.
Your conscious mind allows you to think and use your previous experiences and knowledge as references. However, it is far from defining your default behaviors.
That’s the domain of your subconscious mind.
💮 In a quite straight forward manner: your subconscious mind is behind your way of thinking, your procrastination, your productivity, your focus and more.
Your perception of reality, your reactions to unexpected events, your habit patterns, your way of thinking, and your ideas are based on your subconscious mind.
It explains why after specific events, usually unexpected ones, you ask yourself “why did I react that way? What made me say that? Wow since when I am that cool and calm in such a rough situation? “. There is also the classic “ Darn, I should have done this or that!” when your mind drifts before sleep.
Don’t freak out. This does not mean that you are not in control. After all, your subconscious mind is somewhat you.
Let’s start with the meh news: our subconscious minds start being modeled since childhood. It learns from experiences including external factors like friends, parents, and teachers. The issue is: during childhood and teenagerhood, our conscious mind is not strong enough to sort information and process it completely. Therefore, we all leave our youth with tons of mixed beliefs some of which we do not fully understand at the time. Some stuff sticks within our systems of beliefs without us noticing them.
The great news is: you can change that! You could communicate with your subconscious mind and help it upgrade its models and perceptions.
Making friends with your background brain comes through various techniques such as visualization, meditation, personal accountability, journaling or a personal cocktail of all of those practices.
The most consistent way to shape your behavior is habit implementation.
Several books are out there to walk you through the process of implementing the right habits for you.
“The 5 AM Club” by Robin Sharma and “Innercise” by John Assaraf are awesome and fun to read.
► The main idea behind making friends with your inner beast is to become a better version of yourself. I know this sound lame and cliché. However, communicating with your subconscious mind means that you show it where you want to be: who you want to become. Then, it gets you there.
► This also means that you could make things worse if you only think about the disaster and focus on a dark future. Therefore, gratitude and positiveness are essential. Make sure you have enough daily doses of those.
🗝️# 3: Give it time!
Getting fast results is one of the main characteristics of our modern societies.
Now, you would not plant a seed then take a nap and wake up a few hours later expecting to harvest fresh fruits. Would you? Yet sometimes, you expect your friends to instantly make you feel better after a breakup or failing at something: say a test or getting a promotion.
Maybe you already realize that some, rather, most things require time. Especially the great ones.
Your objective is your fruit, the tree is you. As you grow you get closer to delivering fruits. The amount of care and nutrients the tree takes over time determines the quality of the fruits. Not to mention the dry seasons to resist and the rainy ones to enjoy.
Truth is, you have to learn to give it time. The best way is to enjoy the process and treat yourself as someone you are responsible for ALL THE TIME. Take care of yourselves ladies and gentlemen each and every day, not occasionally.
While watering your tree daily, you enjoy the idea of seeing it grow and flourish. Then, one day you notice the first leaf. Then the tree gets bigger and greener until the fruits show up.
What happens then? You would want more and better for the next season or maybe even planting a different kind of tree. You raise your standards.
► We tend to forget that the last thing to grow on a tree is the fruit.
🔓🔓🔓 Once you get hold of the three keys, you unlock your goal-achieving GPS and start enjoying your journey.
► Your goal is the destination, the voice guiding you is your subconscious mind and your progress through time is your journey in life.
Your GPS knows the destination and adjusts the itinerary according to your current speed, position and time. It might even show you shortcuts. Otherwise, when you stray from the shortest road, it is no big deal. You still know where you are headed. Therefore, your GPS will adjust the itinerary.
Also hey, detours are usually enjoyable. While you are at it, you could learn one or two things before getting back on your main path. By the way, I hope you enjoyed this one.