You’ve never seen people so excited and happy as when they score a goal. There is running about, jubilation, jumping into the arms of a team mate and general back slapping. Why are goals so good? Why is goal-orientation such a useful piece of health advice?
One reason might be allowing ourselves to overcome our existential nihilism (the idea that life might be meaningless – hobbits do not have an opinion on this, they just aim for second breakfast each day). Nietzsche is the poster boy for nihilism,
but Shakespeare got there first:
“Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
If it’s all pointless, and values are meaningless why not just eat the doughnuts?
Well, even if you do just eat the doughnuts, you’ve got a lot of eating time. There is more to life than doughnuts. You have to decide how to live it – meaning or no meaning. You’re around for a lot of years during which it’s quite nice if your body is capable of doing what you want it to do and during which you might prefer to feel comfortable, free and not attached to a synthetic chemical regime (peddled by big pharma) to keep you alive.
Suspend your disbelief
Goals allow you to focus on something small and human, rather than the large and infinite. Goals allow you to look forward to something. Goals allow you to achieve and feel a warm glow of satisfaction. The path towards a goal takes up some of that aching expanse of time. Goals allow you to reward yourself and goals can give you a sense of upwards motion, of improvement.
Incremental goal setting
“Health” is a big infinite topic, but setting yourself incremental, actionable goals on the way can reduce it to a manageable size. And don’t forget the “aggregation of marginal gains” a lot of small goals achieved will add up to one big outcome.