Goals

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Since the new year is coming up in less than a week, I’ve been thinking a little — a very little — about goals, resolutions, and so on, as is tradition around this time.It would not be inaccurate to say that I am not a particularly goal oriented person. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that I intend, and then actually accomplish. There are other things that I intend, don’t accomplish, and more or less forget about. The whole process is a great deal more amorphous than goal experts make it out to be.

So I watched a short TED talk about how we’re more likely to accomplish our goals if we don’t tell anyone about them. There’s a study mentioned where two groups of people were asked to think of a personal goal; one group told a randomly selected person about it (the researchers?), and the other group couldn’t tell anyone. Then they were both given 45 minutes in which to write out a plan for achieving this goal. Most of the people who didn’t tell worked for 45 minutes, and still felt like they had a long way to go by the end. Most of those who had told someone else only worked an average of 30 minutes, and felt much closed to achieving their goal.

My first reaction to all of this way: that’s total rubbish. I say that as someone who generally lets intentions incubate a bit before telling anyone, and then only a few rather carefully selected people, to gauge how they react, and if they think it’s a reasonable possibility or not. rubbish because, quite obviously, most of our goals are in some way relational, or at least could use some help and advice, and however are we going to accomplish them if we don’t ever tell anyone. Of course, if I want to learn iconography, it’s good to tell some people who paint icons, or know people who do. If I’m going to learn Georgian, it’s good to tell some patient Georgians. If I’m going to read a certain number of new books I should tell someone who has good tastes in literature and might lend me some. If I want to go hiking every week, I’d do well to tell some friends who enjoy hiking. And so on. To the extent that telling people about goals harms them — and they didn’t deserve to be harmed — it’s probably because the wrong people were told, or at the wrong time.

I find this interesting in much the same way that advice to idealistic young missionaries is interesting. They want to encourage us to be introspective and perhaps even a little reticent, in a sharing sort of way — but not necessarily more introspective and reticent than some of us already are. Since I used to be more reticent than I now am, I know well enough that it’s not any help at all for accomplishing certain goals, because I might fail to talk to the people who could most help me — or at least delay progress for quite some time.

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