Use Active Goal-Setting to Improve Your Odds of Success

On the difference between active and passive goals, the “goal” of goal-setting, and meeting reality on its own terms.

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Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

The Two Types of Goals

The first (and most common) kind of goals are passive. They come out of a way of thinking that centers around what you would like to have, be, or receive. These kinds of goals are more common — especially for those who don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the process of adopting goals.

Passive Goals

For lack of a better descriptor, we’ll call the wrong way to formulate goals passive goal formulation. It centers around achievement — meaning obtaining something — which sounds just fine on the surface. But hidden in the words of such goals is a problem.

  1. Passive goals — once achieved — fail to fulfill you.

Active Goals

Goals built on wishes to be or to have tend lead down a road of disillusionment or abandonment. So what can replace them? Active goal-setting.

  1. What problems would I like to have?
  2. What trade-offs would I be happy to be making?

The Link Between Activity and Fulfillment

Aristotle wrote that the aim of a good human life was not achievement — though achievements can certainly help build one. Rather, it is in the use of our uniquely human functions that we find fulfillment. It’s not the completion of the project — where we sit back and reap the passively accepted benefits — that we find that thing that makes it all worth while. Instead, it is the use of our reason, creativity, and human spirit that we find fulfillment. And what could engage those things more than being knee-deep in a challenging project?

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Author of “The Wabi-Sabi Way” and “Be, Think, Do”. Subscribe to my newsletter “Woolgathering”:

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