Often times we work based on setting a predefined goal, and the way we perform is structured in such a way to achieve that goal in the given time. I see few fundamental problems with it.

Goals are often set to achieve a desired outcome. For eg, learning a new programming language, finishing your side project or finishing a book. But the problem with it is it conveys an all-or-nothing outcome. But that is not the case in most activities.

When we set goals for something, it alters our thinking towards “achieving” that goal and our journey to it gets lost as a means.

When you don’t “achieve” a goal, you’ll consider that as a failed endeavor. And all the new things you learned during your journey towards the goal will go unappreciated.

For example, When you’re reading a book, finishing each page is itself a result. Or when you have a weight loss “goal”, shedding 1 kg is a result. It shouldn’t be seen as “progress” because then it says these are nothing but a tangential step towards the final outcome, which when you don’t meet, never gets registered that you indeed had results.

The problem is magnified when your work becomes Goal driven, especially in knowledge industry. We don’t get our “reward” at the end of a goal, but it is actively accumulated during every step of the way. As a programmer, every failed program or a bug you encounter is teaching you new ways or perfecting the old ones. As a researcher, every one of your failed device setup or incorrect experiments, is teaching you ways.

To conclude goals should be used as a course correcting mechanism when you wander off from your planned direction. It cannot be your singular focus, for when it is, all the time between now and when you achieve it is merely a footnote.