26 Years Later -- Goals? Why Do We Need Them?

I just found two speeches I wrote when I was 18 years old (now I'm 44). Below is one of them (I'll post the other one later):

Goals. Why do we need them. Goals help us establish meaning and values in our lives. They give us a purpose in life. When we strive for goals, we are adding growth and identity to our lives. Everyone needs to determine some kind of goal. Viktor Frankl quotes Nietzsche in his book saying, "He who has a 'why' for living can bear with almost any 'how.'" Cases of extreme deprivation such as the concentration camp experience in the past wars illustrate the human need for a sense of direction and purpose; those who lost all sense of meaning and gave up hope, died. Although we are not faced with such extreme conditions, the lack of meaning seems to be a pressing and pervasive problem in our society. Many who are fortunate enough to achieve power, fame, success, and material comfort nevertheless experience a sense of emptiness. Although they may not be able to articulate what it is that is lacking in their lives, they know that something is amiss. The astronomical number of pills and drugs produced to allay the symptoms of this "existential vacuum" -- depression and anxiety -- are evidence that allow us to make sense out of our place in the world.

It's a good idea for you to sit down and ask yourself these questions: In what direction am I moving in my life? What steps can I take to make the changes necessary in my life that I decide I want to make? What do I have to show for my years on this earth so far? Where have I been, where am I now, and where do I want to go? Where do I want to be as a person in a year, five years, 10 years, or further into the future?

Once you have answered these questions, actively engage in a search for meaning in your life. It is not automatically bestowed upon you. Goals don't have to be far in the future, either. They can be short term or long term. Short-term goals could be losing 5 lbs. in a month or making an A on your next Spanish test. Long-term goals could be graduating from college in four years, getting married and raising a family, making a million dollars in 10 years, or buying a house in 15 years. Whatever type you choose, achieve the goal -- then set a new one. If we don't continue setting new and challenging goals, we become bored and don't know what to do with ourselves. Consider, for example, the tragic suicide of Freddie Prinze of "Chico and the Man" fame. Here was a famous actor who had reached success and wealth at an early age of 21 or 22. When he had reached his goal of becoming rich and successful, he felt that he had nothing else to achieve, and thus, nothing to live for.

I encourage all of you to write a paper outlining your goals. Begin by asking who you are at this time, and what influences have contributed to the person you are now. List your influences during childhood and adolescence, attitudes concerning love and sex, intimate relationships, family life, death and meaning. Ask who you want to become, what your future plans are for an occupation, your future with others, and future plans for yourself (i.e., how you would like to be 10 years from now, your priorities for the future, your view of the good life, choices you see as being open to you now, and other aspects of your future). Writing a paper of this sort can help develop your philosophy of life, and help you decide your ultimate goals.

Seeking meaning and purpose in life is an important part of your personal growth.


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