The Debilitating Effects of Goal Porn

In the past decade I’ve transformed myself from someone who was apathetic, with little direction, or follow-through into someone who sets big goals and accomplishes what she sets her mind to. I’ve developed a strong work ethic.

It’s a transformation I’m quite proud of.

What I’m less good at is leaning into the uncertainty. When a big decision presents itself I want to figure it out and devise a five-point action plan like yesterday rather than allowing myself to feel into the nuances of the situation and ride the waves of change to see what signs and synchronicities present themselves.

When life is going more or less well, when my big goals have been accomplished and the next one has yet to present itself, my gut reaction is that I need to create a new vision. That I should be figuring out my life plan and getting completely clear on where I’m going. I’m always looking to strive towards something new rather than sitting back and enjoying how good life is right here, right now.

And I’m not alone.

In the past week I’ve had conversations with two women who are also desperately trying to force some big dream to present itself so that they can work towards big changes, even though they’re actually pretty fucking happy with where their lives are at right now.

Why is that?

I think as a generation we’ve gotten really good at dreaming big and striving and making things happen. But we’re not so good at just enjoying where we’re at. And we really suck at surrendering and going with the flow when life is uncertain.

It’s no wonder when the internet is full of goal porn: pushy articles insisting that we lust after six-figure incomes and step-by-step guides to creating vision boards that correspond with our 90-day, one-year, and five-year goals.

We’re totally adept at creating to-do lists and action plans, but has it come at the expense of being?

In both of the aforementioned conversations it became abundantly clear that all three of us needed to take our hands off the steering wheel a little bit and allow rather than always controlling.

My husband and I are currently making some big decisions about our future. We’d essentially found ourselves at a crossroads and I desperately wanted to create pro/con lists and hammer it out so that we could figure it out right now.

But it quickly became clear that there was no right answer. That we were going to have to feel our way through this one.

So I surrendered. The decision was still percolating in the back of my mind but I wasn’t forcing or obsessing. And soon we knew what felt right for us and things have been lining up pretty easily to support that decision.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not swearing off hard work and I’m still an advocate for having big dreams. But life comes in seasons.

There are times in our lives when big dreams present themselves and it’s worth the sacrifice of going all in to make this thing we can’t stop thinking about happen.

And there are others when life is uncertain. When we have the time and space to process, reflect, celebrate, and enjoy.

What’s the point of striving to better our lives if we never get a chance to enjoy the progress we’ve made?

Because let’s stop kidding ourselves that there’s some illusive day in the future when we’ll get to kick up our feet and just revel in pure leisure  time.

That’s a relic of the old “work non-stop for your entire life to enjoy a few years of leisure in retirement” mentality.

If we don’t learn how to celebrate and enjoy what we’ve got, I have a hard time believing we’ll ever be satisfied. I know that I’m so indoctrinated into the cult of productivity that I often feel guilty during my down time. I’ll find myself multi-tasking or worrying about how I could be “making the most of it.” True surrender and relaxation is something I’m having to diligently prioritize and actually train myself to do (which sounds contradictory, I know).

So this isn’t a five-point plan on letting go. It’s just a gentle nudge of encouragement to myself, to the women I spoke to, and to anyone else who can relate to click away from the goal porn sometimes. To recognize our propensity for vision boards and goals and action plans as another form of control freakery.

Let’s enjoy these seasons of rest when they appear. Let’s stop attaching our self-worth to our productivity and allow ourselves the radical act of enjoying our lives. And let’s trust that when the time is right the muse will strike again and the perfect big dream will take hold of our hearts and minds and we’ll be ready.