If you must set personal objectives, then at least be passionate

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What better way to squeeze the fun and spontaneity out of life than to set objectives. But setting objective gets things done and remain remains pivotal for businesses and employees. This normally involves input from several levels of the organization very far removed from the reality of the situation as they both where it wants to be in the future. Objective setting really comes down to obtaining a reasonable return on investment. All activities in the business are supposedly coordinated as to whether a proposed activity assists in obtaining the objective set down. Resources should be aligned towards this particular direction. Activities at odds with the main objective could then be discontinued. If a corporation possesses some broader vision, then it may have certain R and D activities, skunk works, where creative forces could have free range to create products.

For corporations, long-term objectives are the results expected from following certain strategies, while strategies represent the actions to be taken to accomplish long-term objectives. Objectives provide direction, synergy, evaluation and prioritization for organizational activities. So you might set certain goals for education, exercise or volunteering to help others.

Thoreau’s approach to objective setting was to simplify.  He recommended having your affairs be as two or three and not as opposed to hundreds or thousands. Objectives for yourself should be specific, measurable, consistent, reasonable, challenging, clear, communicated, timed and rewarded. I like the rewards part. You should really make this something that you wouldn’t ordinarily do so that you associate your good work with the reward. I always seem to come back to chocolate. The higher 90% cocoa can taste a bit like punishment, but it’s an acquired taste.

At first glance, a business approach to life appears to be a cold and calculating way to approach one’s own life.  However, most of us are not living, and we are merely existing for moment to moment.  The vast majority of humanity never achieve their full potential.  So setting objectives can be a good way to do this. Even better, you can program any number of different aps to keep track of this for you. The aps can keep these objectives top of mind, at least until you relegate your smart phone to the bottom of the cabinet.

A simpler life allows an individual more time and ability to become fully actualized.  This was certainly Thoreau’s opinion that the things in life merely divert us away from achieving a full life. He would be aghast at the push notifications that we all like receiving to get our regular dopamine fix.

If we examine Thoreau’s objective, we can see that he wanted to truly experience life. He felt that he could only do this by sweeping away the other externalities that would distract him from this particular objective. His stint at Walden’s Pond only lasted for a couple of years, but the experience lasted for this entire life.

During this time he lived rather simply in a basic cottage. He kept track of the expenses and during this time and noted how stress free his life could be after spending $19 building a house when you had $20, but how miserable existence it would be if he actually spent $21. During this time, he built his house, grew his own food and read the great philosophical works. His time at Walden of course gave him the material to write his well-known treatise, A Life in the Woods.

We can see that Thoreau gave himself the objective of seeking the essence of life. He used a number of extreme strategies in order to get to this particular essence, and he did give a number of problems with the status quo of life at that time. He may not have absolutely determined the essence of life, but his secondary objective of stripping away everything that prevented him from seeking this essence was achieved. He wrote that he went to the woods to live sturdily, and so he accomplished this.

Taking the Thoreau approach, a good preliminary objective would be to rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way of achieving our main objectives, but what should our main objectives be once we have time to accomplish them. If something is truly important to you, no doubt that you have found the time to accomplish it somehow. This suggests that another main objective would be to critically examine the things that you have set out for years, but you still have not set out to accomplish. If this type of objective does not make the first five year plan, then perhaps set it aside for the next five year plan. Perhaps by then you will have finished off some other objectives and you can now focus on a new set of objectives.

All of your objectives should somehow fit into your personal vision. However, there are other objectives, constraints, we can call them realities that still have to be addressed in some fashion. You may have chosen, or had chosen for you, certain objectives that have a time span far longer than the traditional five-year cycle. If you have these types of constraints, or if these types of constraints have you, then you are facing completing these objectives before turning to any new ones. Fortunately, car loans normally end after five years. Student loans may take even longer to pay off.

Types of Objectives

The quintessential question would be what sort of objective should one set for one’s own life. Everyone has a slightly different situation, but some generalities could be drawn from other life examples. On occasion, objectives have been set for some individuals when they have not even been aware of it occurring.

Another obvious long-term objective would of course be children. Once you have started this objective, intentionally or not, you have signed on for life. At some points in time, this particular objective can be more time consuming, or even maddening, fortunately, this objective has certain phases, so the constant variety keeps us in suspense as to what might be happening next. Every parent will tell that the next children phase is even more troubling than the one you are presently in.

You can set a long-term objective to have a fully developed relationship with your children. How to fully develop this relationship can be dependent upon countless factors. There does not appear to be any particular formula in deciding how this relationship could be formed. However, there is always one limiting factor that determines the rate of growth in any type of interaction until you reach the next limiting factor. This first factor always appears to be time. Although there could be any other factors at work, spending more time would in all probability, be the best and first criteria to address.

A second long-term objective would be a fully functional relationship with your significant other. There are countless books on this topic, and I would suggest reading one or more of them.  By continuously reading, you can obtain the necessary context to all of the other conflicting recommendations.  

To say that he or she is not doing something or is doing too much of something can simply prevent you from achieving the full relationship that you truly desire. Perhaps you’re holding back or holding onto something.  If you’re waiting for an invitation stop waiting for one1.  Simply start doing whatever it is you’re thinking about assuming of course that it fits in with your larger value system.  

Possible Objectives

Having a fully actualized relationship with my significant other and our children.

Having a fully actualized life.

Avoiding matters that prevent me from achieving these first two objectives.

Reducing the constraints that the form my reality during this phase of my life.

This brings us to the question as to how many objectives can a person carry at any one time. We can look into anyone’s smart device and we will undoubtedly find dozens of things that have to be done, and we would not find one true-life objective. These activities are important, but they can fritter away a true life.

Somewhere between 1 and 10 objectives at any one times seems to be somewhat appropriate. Of course, you could have just one objective;

I will live life.

However, if this objective is not fleshed out a bit more, then one might not be completely sure if they are working towards this objective or not. Adding a few more objectives can fill in the potential list of activities that are useful in accomplishing our main objective.

The effects of objective planning for the human equation can be seen in any number of areas, but the effects are more clearly seen where someone has greater control of all of the extraneous variables. Training for a marathon requires rigorous training for at least a year prior to the event. This training can be done in less time, but similar to simply falling off a cliff, the end result is not as pleasing. However, once the objective becomes set in your mind, you merely have to elect a date in the future, and the training schedule can be developed for your individual ability.

This sort of example occurs all of the time when individuals set objectives strictly for themselves. You can see other examples of single parents returning to school after a long absence to finish or start their education. They certainly see themselves as being able to improve their present condition.

However, if we broaden our objective setting to include other variables, then we can see the difficulties. Your objective of finding a relationship, or improving the one that you are in, involves the greatest of variables, another human being; the most enigmatic of variables you could possibly find. If you set this as an objective, then any number of activities can be directed towards accomplishing this.

Finding a relationship initially starts with going to where to where the people. Your specific activities of only going directly back to your home or apartment appears to be inconsistent with actually interacting with people. If you want a better relationship with your existing significant other, again this involves actually getting up and interacting with him or her. Once again your activities vetted through this screen of objective setting. Perhaps going to the bar after work is somehow inconsistent with this objective. No doubt this is the way this type of activity is viewed by your significant other.

Continuing this line of thought, we can see that setting objectives on a broader scale becomes more problematic and challenging. Others might not see problems, but only challenges. Certainly, others would see only problems, and they would also see the optimistic types that only see challenges as one more problem. However, we can see the broader scale where entire communities and cities have been turned around; galvanized around certain events. One does not have to look farther than the situation of a lost child. Entire communities can set out to look for this child. Everyone can identify with this objective.

Recently, entire countries have been turned around from a cultural perspective. The U.S. civil rights movement centered on several individuals as they rallied for the rights that should be common to everyone. Many individuals had this objective, and perhaps this objective has not yet been perfectly obtained, but you can see the complexity of situation as more people, cultures, systems and ingrained attitudes become involved.

Objective Timing

Corporations reassess their own objectives on a yearly basis. This seems to be necessary since the competitive arena changes on a daily basis. A corporation has to constantly ensure that its objectives take into account these changes. An individual should do the same, but to what extent? Our competitive situation is not the same, but the constraints that we have to live within can change. A new spouse, child or job can place constraints that we voluntarily place upon ourselves. We then have to re-evaluate that the education/travel/marathon/business objective that we set for ourselves might have to be placed on a new time line if not completely shelved for the distant future. However, this should not come as any surprise since if we have changed so drastically, we would have given ourselves a new objective to put into effect the strategies to acquire a new spouse/child/job. Stop, look around, and that’s where you are.

Objective Size

How large should your own objectives be? Corporations sometimes use BiHAG; big hairy audacious goals. If you think small, then you act small. The bonus is, that if you think big you are sometimes rewarded big. However, the bonus that individuals that set BiHAGs for everyone else, normally obtain some sort of additional bonus, normally in the way of stock options.

For individuals, this means the larger the risk, the larger the potential reward. However, limiting your objectives to yourself for the time being appears realistic. If you meet your objectives for the first cycle, since you have continuously do this for all cycles of life, then you can expand your perspective later.

Setting proper objectives throughout life is rewarding. Once the nature of these objectives fit in with the larger vision you have set for yourself, you are far along the path of finding out what it means to be truly alive. Others have written what it means to be truly alive, and one further objective would be seek out different and perhaps larger perspectives on what this might actually mean.

Can your life provide a comparable return on investment? Remember that Thoreau suggests that we should simplify, while Jung suggests that our purpose is to become completely individualized. We could conceive as Jung being the result, while Thoreau is suggesting a type of means. But if the result only lasts for a moment at the very end of life or business cycle, then perhaps the means lasts for somewhat longer and should remain the main focus throughout life. The setting of the target albeit important, is merely a small part of the ultimate journey that one has to take. Getting there may be far more fun than simply arriving.

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