An archer aiming at a target, with the bow drawn and arrow sighted. Why Set Goals?

Your Directing Mind

We don’t always know the direction our lives will take. Serendipity has a part in it if we are open to it. The only sure way to know where we want to go is by setting goals. But why set goals? What is the point behind this? And do we always need to set goals?

Seating down after dinner, talking to my wife about another question I was pondering over, my love asked me that same question: “Why set goals?”

Thing is, it’s an extremely valid question and the only bad question is the one that has never been asked. As my dad would say, “If you don’t ask you don’t get” (remember this)! And it may be truly think how to answer it, because it’s a valid point.

Listen to what Marcus Aurelius had to say about the directing mind:

Of itself the directing mind is without needs, unless it creates a need for itself: in the same way it is untroubled and unhindered, unless it troubles or hinders itself.

Now, to understand the above quote we have to be clear on what we mean by the directing mind.

The best way to explain this is to get you to look at your own life and what you have done up to now. For example, have you got a car, a house, a bike, a laptop, a pc – anything that you can say you can experience? I will bet you that you do. By the way, this also includes if you don’t have those things, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Do you recall when you first thought about getting that thing? Maybe you do maybe you don’t. But you did have to think about it. You can’t exactly go after something until you become aware of it. For example, you didn’t make your drink or buy it without first becoming aware that it exists and then deciding that you want to drink that particular drink. You then went ahead and made it or bought it.

We do the same thing with everything in our lives, whether it be clothing, food, drink or anything else.

What about a business? Did someone decide to start a business without choosing what type of business they wanted to be in or get into? It’s not random! It’s a choice, a decision.

First, the Idea

First, however, there has to be the idea. That idea, if it’s something that we want to do and decide that it is what we are going to do, becomes a goal. A target.

Earl Nightingale said, “We become what we think about”.
So, if we don’t have goals, we are not going to aim for anything.

Imagine you have a bow and arrow in your hand and you are proficient in it. You are told to fire the arrow. Your question should be, “At what?” I want you to think about what follows:

If you fire the arrow into the air, it will land, but where it lands can be pretty random. You may choose, as a proficient archer, to aim for a bit of clear ground between the trees. That is a target you chose without being given direction. But if you didn’t choose where to aim for it can land anywhere.

On the other hand, if you are given a clear target to aim for, as a proficient archer, you are not only going to hit it but are likely to hit the bullseye. What if you are just starting out? Even if you don’t hit it on the first attempt at least you know what to aim for and with practice you’ll get better at it.

How can a business achieve success without clear goals and what it wants to achieve?

Sounds obvious right? It would be silly to just fire an arrow and hope that it hits something worthwhile, even though you weren’t aiming for it.

But that is exactly what most of us do. We go about our lives with no clear goals and no clear destination.

Our mind is a goal seeking mechanism. Whether you choose a direction or not, it will still aim for something. We have a directing mind – it directs the course of our life. So for those who decide to make no choice, that is still a choice made, a decision to do nothing.

Most of us make very short term goals, like what clothes to buy, shoes, what to eat, what to drink. The weekly shopping, putting the money aside for the bills to come.

Other goals are the car you want to have, a house, a flat by the sea, a job. These are still goals. Everything we do is based on goals or targets. Nothing is ever achieved without setting some form of goal or failing to set them.

Why is it this way?

Because our whole way of life is dependant on our subconscious mind. Every action and inaction or omission is based on the beliefs we hold. We decide what to do and how to do it dependant on those beliefs. Even when we seek to find out whether we are right or not depends on those beliefs – we all have a cognitive bias and seek to affirm our beliefs.

We will even seek information, unconsciously, to affirm why we will fail or not succeed, or why our business should not move in this or that direction. It’s pretty much a catch 22 – you are stuck where you are because of you.

Consequently, we create goals or don’t create goals. Even the goals we create are controlled by those biases, most of the time never venturing beyond our comfort zone because of fears we hold.

To change our outcome we have to become more aware of ourselves.

Sun Tzu in “The Art of War” stated that, if we know ourselves and our enemy we will win every time; if we know ourselves but not the enemy, we have a fifty percent chance of winning and losing; but if we don’t know ourselves or the enemy, we will lose every time.

We have to know ourselves to become more aware and to deal with our biases and fears.


You do what you fear, you do something that you wouldn’t usually do. You recreate yourself by writing out who you want to be, being specific to character, personality, health, job, career, relationships, family, finances.

You decide what it is you want to do and decide that you will keep going at it until you succeed. You may have to take a diversion here and there, but so does a plane to get back on track when a side wind throws it off course. Any diversion is a learning point.

Failure is not failure until you quit. There may be a time when you decide to quit, because going ahead will cause your health to suffer. Like a CEO who decided to change his career completely, take a massive pay cut, move home and state, due to his health. As far as he was concerned this was a win-win. He had more time for his family as well.

Is decision all it takes? No. You have to act. You have to plan. Be open to opportunity. Be open to serendipity. There will be times that unexpected doors open in a direction you never thought of or expected and take you in a completely different path than you were on before. Is this quitting? You are quitting a direction you were initially headed on for one that brings you more joy and fulfillment. Is that failure? No.

So when is failure not failure after quitting? When the outcome is more joy and fulfillment.

Do we always have to set goals to move in the direction we want? We have a directing mind. It directs us towards the goals we set for ourselves. Some of those goals may seem so normal that we don’t think of them as goals, but they are. Every decision follows a set goal, a set target. And we do it every day, consciously and, mostly, unconsciously.
The question you have to ask is this: Knowing what you know now, are the goals you are setting for yourself today going to take you closer to the life you want or further away?

And another question: is it fair on everybody involved? (Zig Ziglar)

What are you directing your directing mind towards today?

The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.

All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.
Orison Swett Marden

Photograph by: Vince Fleming on Unsplash

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    • thaliawentz
    • 3 October 2019

    Hі there colleagues, itѕ fantastic article concerning teachingand сompletely defined,
    ҝeep it upp аll thе time.

    1. Thank you. New post every Tuesday 🙂

    • denicejenson
    • 20 June 2019

    Gоod article. I аm experioencing ɑ few ߋf thhese issues as well..

    1. How clear are your goals? Are they time limited? Do you feel you can achieve them or is there doubt? Have you clarified them?

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