By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here
Goals are endpoints. This is their very nature; why they are specific, measurable, and time-based. Great for tasks and projects, terrible for your health. Why? Because health outcomes have no endpoint; they are continuous and change with your current mental state and circumstances. It's a living thing because your health is you, and you are a living thing. In fact, whatever you are going through it goes through. And you have one endpoint, death, and the point is to delay not to encourage it.
You Are Not a Business and Your Body Does Not Run Like an LLC
But, because of ideas from project management, goal setting, and corporate thinking, we have disconnected ourselves from our health. That's like thinking the earth and the world are different things when they are interchangeable ways to say the same thing. A work project is not you whereas your health is. It's the wrong solution for the wrong system. (If it's a task like ten minutes on a bike or getting your Christmas shopping done before Christmas, it works great. But for you, a never-ending project, it's useless long-term, and it has proved to be that. The fact that you have to keep repeating it is proof of that — because it keeps ending whenever you meet your goal — and sometimes sooner.) It's not about you changing something outside of yourself once and permanently, it's about continuously changing yourself indefinitely.
You Don't Need Goals, You Just Need to Change
So as you change in personality and habits, so will your health. The nature of your health changes as you change because they are one and the same. And the more stability and control you have over your mental state and circumstances, the more it reflects in your health. Change, cultivate and maintain equanimity.
Set Goals to Break Yourself Down
Constantly comparing yourself to where you think you ought to be at some endpoint is a terrible way to cultivate equanimity. And that's what goals do; that's what your boss does to you. Tracks and measures you, does it feel nice when he or she does it? Most likely it will break you down because it's not like a project. You are physically detached from a project, but when it's you it's personal — vulnerable and exposed. They aren't going to look at your presentation; they will look at and judge you. With a project, you can tell yourself not to take it personal because they aren't criticizing you, they are criticizing your project. When it comes to you and your health, yes it is personal, they are judging and criticizing you, and you volunteered for this. It's a pyrrhic victory where getting what you want is worse than not getting it. And you will be complicit in doing this to yourself daily as well; which is why most fail prior to ever achieving their goal. (I hope it now makes sense why people unconsciously sabotage themselves: your brain is fighting for its mental health and sanity.) The point of improving your health is to build you up, not break you down — that's what goals are for. And in a project that's fine, to break a project down into actionable chunks and to fix them. However, don't try to fix people, they won't like it.
It Kills Mental Health
If most were at least able to achieve their health goal, they would see that it does not end there. That's why most people who are supposedly "healthy," but sometimes at the expense of their mental health, are so obsessed and won't stop talking about their health. They are never good enough because what they want is unattainable. They want an end while still being alive.
WTF Is Maintaining in a Goal Setting Sense?
There is no project management system or goal setting solution for "maintaining," it's always more projects and goals. And that's what awaits you. That's the nature of a company, it can never make enough money and it never plans to die. That's not the nature of your health or your sanity. You can always leave your job, but you can't leave you.
You Are Living Art, Cultivate
You can make a list of all the things you want to attain, but you would have already attained and maintained them if you were already the kind of person to do so. So to attain and keep you must change as a person and remain this changed person. That's not goal setting, that's cultivating. And that starts with accepting this conclusion: There are no endpoints other than death. This is not figurative, as goals are figurative, this is a literal truth. Denying it will have you making the same mistakes, like a hamster in a wheel — which is an actual tool they use in labs to see if animals can learn and change. It's called adaptation.
From genes to the environment, there are many things outside of your control. However, the more control you have over yourself, the more control you have over your controllable world. And if you accept this truth then, yes, it's hard. But if you deny it, then it's impossible. Put another way: We deny the existence of a hard opponent because if we fight a hard opponent, we know it's hard to win. But don't fight him at all and we can never win. And just like in this example, an endpoint (winning) works great as a metaphor, but not as a plan. And I wonder if that's how this all started, people took corporate metaphors that were meant to inspire people and took them literally. (Just as we often mistake a scientific metaphor for science.)
"Corporation" is based on the Latin word "corporal," which means "body." So a corporation is like a body and not the other way around. Seems to work a lot better that way. Otherwise it becomes a metaphor of a metaphor, a body is like a corporation which is like a body — which becomes utter nonsense. And since becoming a world of corporations and businesses and goals and projects, I don't know if it has improved our health. Sure, medicine has improved, but we are less resilient and more feeble without medicine than years prior. So what has all this corporate thinking done for our mental and physical well-being? In a world where we constantly expect and chase endpoints? Yet with you, there are no endpoints but one. You are living art, cultivate.