The Path To Nowhere
If you’re not going somewhere, you’re going nowhere.
Alice and Bob were born and raised in the same neighbourhood, had similar interests in sports and music, went to the same school and graduated from the same college.
Alice is not very disciplined and doesn’t have a thought-through plan for her adult life. She has tried a bunch of random jobs but didn’t stick at any of them for a long time.
Alice doesn’t have particularly strong willpower. She goes to the gym only when she feels guilty about eating too many sweets and she is struggling to wake up in the morning and that’s why she is always late.
She has had a bunch of different hobbies, but she hasn’t achieved any major successes after all.
It looks like she is jumping from one thing to another and doesn’t excel and anything in particular. No permanent jobs or interests.
What’s worse, she considers herself kind of a failure…
Bob, on the other hand, had an exact career plan right after college.
He has got an amazing job and goes to the gym three times a week. He is always punctual and makes sure he does everything exactly right and puts a lot of effort into being a good employee, friend and citizen.
Bob likes playing football and hiking. He travels to a new country every year.
Bob has created a pretty comfortable and ordered life for himself, where everything works great for him.
Bob considers himself a winner. He checks all the right checkboxes in life.
Later in their adult lives, Alice happens to discover her Life Goal.
Before the Life Goal, she didn’t know what she wanted to do and what skills she needed to develop, because she didn’t have a reason why.
The Life Goal puts her on the path of self-growth. Now she practices every day.
She is still being late every now and then, but now she has a reason to be late less often.
Not only her behaviour has changed, but she now lives a much happier life, because what could be more rewarding than working on your Life Goal every day?
Bob, has also pondered many times if he should do something big in his life: volunteer for a charity, move to live off-grid in the middle of the woods or go on a bicycle around the world…
However, none of these things seemed to bring enough motivation to kick him out of the comfort zone of the life he has created.
His career growth plateaued after a few raises. Bob has got stuck with the same hobbies reaching diminishing returns in his growth.
So Bob stayed inside the same “box” that he had built for himself until the end of his life.
All this time Alice has been growing. Her every day was filled with purpose and accomplishment.
She has developed a multitude of different skills she could never imagine herself doing. She has become an expert in her field, a celebrity and an influencer.
Alice has kept working on her Life Goal until the end of her life.
She didn’t manage to reach the Goal — as it was much bigger than her — but that didn’t really matter.
She has changed the lives of many other people and was well remembered after her death.
The point of this story is not to say that everybody needs to have a Life Goal and the only right way to live their life.
The point is to highlight the difference between having one and not having one.
Not having goals in life is like embarking on a journey with no idea of the direction or destination.
Not only you wouldn’t know where to go, you wouldn’t have any motivation to go somewhere in particular, as there would be no reason.
Another important aspect to highlight is the size of the goals you set.
Most people set rather small goals for themselves, which are either about buying something, reaching a professional target, or a personal achievement.
Setting goals bigger than yourself will not only keep you on the path of self-growth perpetually, but it also dramatically raises the bar of the level of achievements and the sense of purpose.
And one more thing:
Now, when the game is over, it all goes back in the box. All that money, all that property, all those houses and all those hotels, Boardwalk and Park Place…
The game is gonna end. It always ends. And when it does, it all goes back in a box.
— John Ortberg
What really matters is what’s left after.