Finite Goals Bring Fleeting Joy

When our goals are specific, we are more likely to achieve them, but we are also more likely to find disappointment and dissatisfaction when we do.

By having specific, measurable goals, we set ourselves up for success. It is easier to achieve goals that we can name and that we can define. The problem is that once we reach these goals, once we achieve what we set out to achieve, we often find that it was not enough to satisfy us and that now we must set a new, higher mark to reach for.

Accomplishment is a double-edged sword, in that it is necessary, but also inherently disappointing. We all need to feel like our lives have meaning and purpose, but putting the weight of this on extrinsic, finite achievements will always leave us with a fleeting sense of joy. We then chase that joy by setting new goals and achieving more, but, if we are not careful, this can become a never-ending cycle of anticipation, excitement, and letdown.

Once our basic needs are met, once we are living above base-level survival, if we truly want to find joy and contentment in our lives, we must look beyond the finite, beyond the specific, and beyond the measurable. We must look deeper, farther, but also closer to home. If we want to live lives of meaning and purpose, where every step forward brings us lasting peace, we must start by being present.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as well as a founding member of the Severna Park and Baltimore Holistic Chamber of Commerce.

Street art photo taken by Robert Van Valkenburgh, artist unknown unless otherwise noted.

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