Why I Need to Redefine My Goals
And Stop Trying to Eat Too Many Figs…
I want to sit down and just get it done — learning new skills, starting a company, becoming the best. I know the steps to optimizing my focus and productivity: a constructive environment, prioritized to-do lists, no distractions, and so many other things. The problem is even when I accomplish all of these productivity hacks, I still get nothing done. I still haven’t learned another language, I haven’t started a company, I haven’t mastered programming. Despite my burning desire to be the best, I still find myself at the starting line. I can’t seem to focus on one thing long enough to actually get it accomplished. Given that I followed the playbook of productivity, why aren’t I seeing the results?
I want too many things. I want to be fluent in several languages, I want to master math, I want to be an incredible musician, I want to be a professional programmer… I want too many things.
I find myself daydreaming about my potential future self: fluent in 5 languages, founder of a successful startup, and a general master of everything. Throughout my life, I’ve seen this ideal version of myself that I feel obligated to become, the problem is that ideal self is becoming increasingly out of touch with who I actually am. I see myself as accomplishing all of these things, but in the process I haven’t accomplished any of them. I have too many goals that I want to accomplish.
My parents raised me with the ideal that ‘every door is always open’; I have the skill to do and become anything that I want, but I think it opened too many doors in the process. I see too many doors open (possibilities): how could I possibly choose any of doors? But how could I close any of the others? I came across Sylvia Plath’s quote from the “Bell Jar” and it pretty much sums up what would happen if I don’t shut any of those doors (let go of some of my ambitions).
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
I’m sitting underneath that fig tree starving to death. I want to start a successful startup, I want to learn so many skills, I want all these things; but I can’t reach any of them. Granted, they’re not falling to the ground quite yet; I still have plenty of time to eat a shit ton of figs, but if I continue down the road that I’m currently on, then all of those figs and opportunities will fall to the ground and it will be too late.
I’ve always been jealous, yet skeptical of those with a singular focus. A chef’s passion is creating delicious food; an artist’s passion is creating inspirational art; a mathematician’s passion is to develop beautifully complex theorems. I’ve always found that level of devotion and passion honorably simplistic. They hone their craft and have such an intense passion that it becomes who they are.
- Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Picasso are known for their magnificent works of art
- Einstein, Newton, and Galileo are known for their contributions to our understanding of the universe and mechanics surrounding it.
- Mozart, Beethoven, and the Beatles are known for their genius in musical compositions.
All of the infamous legends are known because they devoted their life to their craft, but that’s also an incredibly terrifying idea. They devoted their entire existence to one thing. Mozart and other great composers didn’t have time to master physics and mathematics like Einstein did; similarly Einstein and other great scientists didn’t have the time to master music and the arts like Mozart did.
That’s one of the reasons I have a hard time focusing. I want to be the best at everything and that causes me to have a divided focus; and get less done. It’s a cycle that needs to be broken.
The Possible Solution: decisive goals + some will power + just letting go = increase in getting stuff done — getting closer to that person that I want to be. My ideal self has gotten out of hand: he’s basically the master of everything, a technological genius (think Elon Musk x 2), a social innovator of the world (eradicating poverty, disease, etc.), and so many other things. Obviously this is outrageous, but those are really just daydreams that I have. But honestly, the fact is I have to let go of any version of my ideal self that comes close to that. I’ll never reach my goals if my goals aren’t realistic. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate for the “shoot for the moon” mentality, but I have “let’s explore the entire universe at light speed” mentality and I’m in a spaceship without warp drive. I’m not lowering my expectations of myself, I’m just making them attainable.
I need to redefine my goals. I have too many that are dragging me down. My first step is to prioritize: what goals do I truly want to reach? What goals am I ready to relinquish? There are priorities that I need to be aware of, and I need to make them the thing that I get done when I sit down to do things. After redefining my goals, willpower comes into play. The only thing that separates my current self from my ideal self is work. The only obstacle between me and my dreams is work.
I want to become the best version of myself that I can be. I just have such a large expectation of myself that I’ve entered into a cycle: I don’t get work done, because I don’t know what I want to get done, because I have too many things to get done. I just have to redefine my goals and put in the work.