Goals: Set and Forget - Toward Community

Goals: Set and Forget


Setting goals can be an extremely good thing. They can move us forwards and keep us motivated. The desire to achieve new things, to edge outside of our comfort zone, to grow and progress, ensures that our lives retain dynamism – that they’re constantly evolving. Having a sense of purpose – knowing in which direction we want to head and picking out a few landmarks we’d like to snap along the way – keeps us moving when the ground gets sticky. The trouble is, all too frequently our goals become our ends, rather than the means by which we grow.


This is troublesome for a number of reasons – if we fail to achieve our goals, we feel at best deflated, or at worst thoroughly demoralised by the crushing weight of our ‘failure’. On the other hand, if we succeed, we discover that the feeling of satisfaction that accompanies our achievements is fleeting.

We’ve probably all experienced these frustrations at some time or another, yet often we continue to subscribe to the same dysfunctional behaviour patterns – we repeatedly move the goal posts, convinced that the next victory will be the one to top us brimful of satisfaction.  The funny thing about goals though – something that we’re rarely taught in our objective-driven, product-orientated, materialistic society – is that strictly speaking, they aren’t necessary. You can nurture a skill or quality simply by practicing it because it makes you feel good… and when it does make you feel good – when you’re doing that thing that yanks you from the buttock crevice you have so lovingly engraved in your sofa, objectives are incidental.

Take me for instance – I’m generally considered by the people around me to be a fairly decent artist (if you’re wildly curious you can find some examples of my work here), but despite having achieved a reasonable degree of skill in my chosen vocation, at no point do I remember ever setting myself any sort of goals in order to develop. Drawing got into my blood (I think they call that lead poisoning 😀 No? Not even a snigger?  Aw, shucks) long before I was notified that practice was intended to have purpose. Practice was play.  I wanted to improve, certainly, but drawing to me was just a hell of a good time… And so that’s what I did, all day, every day.

What’s more, if you reflect on your own life, you will invariably find that you’re the same. Even if you imagine that you have no outstanding talent (you do – or at the very least the seeds of one – it just needs a bit of watering and some sunshine to blossom), all of your motor skills – your ability to walk, talk, skip, run, jump, climb, sing (badly) – were acquired through play; through creative exploration. All creatures are the same – your kitten’s oh-so-cute string play is a titilating precursor to the terrorist atrocties she’ll later inflict on quivering mouse populations (I love ’em, but cat’s are little sadists, aren’t they?), your pup’s toothless maulings are prep for the day he must defend his pack from snarling outsiders.  Play is growth, and the militant pursuit of goals sounds the death knell for productive play!

So, how do we reconcile goals with play?

I’m not suggesting that you abandon your goals altogether. What guitar player hasn’t gawped at the likes of Jimmi Hendrix, Joe Satriani or Eric Clapton and thought ‘I want to play like that‘. Today, I actively seek out inspiration to encourage my artwork to evolve – and doing so has led me to a new passion – a new goal I wish to achieve – learning the craft of traditional hand-poked tattooing.

What’s important though, is where we place our emphasis.  Seek to improve, rather than to achieve, and the latter will take care of itself.  Focus on the growth process, rather than the end product.  Look for inspiration wherever you can find it – and when you identify something that sings to you – run with it.  However, don’t get too caught up in the ends; focus your attention instead on the means by which it can be achieved.

Seek to improve your ability a little each day, but have fun with it.  Evaluate your progress along the way, but don’t be afraid to alter course where it feels right to do so.  By doing this you’ll ensure that you remain passionate about what you do – and passion means progress.  You may not end up exactly where you expected to, but that’s okay – the world doesn’t need a facsimile of the influences that inspired you – it needs you to be you – at your dizzying, playful best!

The Community Connection

Woman-Hulahoop-780x520 So, how does this relate to community life?  Well, establishing a         community is tough!  Especially when your would-be communitarians have all been sculpted to act as fiesty, headstrong individuals!  Having common goals in mind when trying to encourage group cohesion is pretty important stuff – but its equally important that your endeavours are allowed to evolve naturally – and that your team can breathe, play and grow.  This is the only way that your community can hope to grow together, and if you don’t make room for such joyful experimentation, its apt to grow apart.

So, work together to set goals for your community, then forget them.  Establish what you want from your collective life together – the shape you want your community to take – and figure out how you need to change in order to facilitate that life.  Regularly regroup, huddle and break – just don’t forget to enjoy the game in between; because its this exhilerating, unpredictable, spontaneous flowering of events that the real stuff of life is made of.

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Kevin Latham

Kevin Latham is an independent copywriter, artist and illustrator, based in Wales, who focuses on themes of spirituality, political reorganisation and sustainability. See Kevin's Website

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