Have you ever been out in the evening and seen a moth drawn toward a porch light? People are like those moths, but it seems that humans are wired to chase after meaning and fulfillment. It’s safe to say that not one of us is content to simply exist. We yearn for more. That’s why fulfillment can be so fleeting. Once we’ve reached one milestone, we fix our sights on the next. If we go too long without progress we grow irritated and unsatisfied. When we’re stagnant it feels as though our ambition is eating a hole through our chest.
The only way to overcome this stagnant irritation is to move forward with something—but not just anything. We need to do meaningful things that matter to us. So we consider our desires, we review our governing values, and we plan our next adventure, weaving small manageable steps into our daily lives. As long as we are continually doing that, we feel content with our situation, but we don’t feel so great when we’re not.
So we set goals. Long-term goals bring meaning into our lives and give us a measuring stick by which to judge our progress. Goals motivate us to better things. They get us off the couch and into our unique version of the good life.
Not everyone sets goals. There are a lot of people who mock the whole idea of goal setting. But those of us who plan regularly have realized that even if we don’t reach our goals the first time we set them, we still benefit from trying—we still grow from our efforts.