Goal days, wait days

A day in your average cycling trip can be boiled down to one thing: you're either heading towards your goal, or you're not making any progress. You can fill in the days that you're not cycling from A to B with any activity you like, of course. A lot of the activities you can do, such as sightseeing, relaxing, finding nice restaurants, indulging in the finer things of life, are absolutely fun to pursue. Days like that provide happiness, but not fulfillment. That's why sometimes a day cycling in the rain in absolutely misery feels better than spending a day sightseeing in a place you don't really care about.

Real life is, as can be expected, nowhere near as straightforward. The obvious first problem is: what exactly is the goal? And even if you know the goal, it's highly unlikely that there's a completely unambiguous, obviously right way of attaining it. Often you'll have some kind of vague goal, such as "I want to earn more money", with many different ways to go about achieving that. Getting better at your current job and aiming for a promotion is one way, but an even more directly fulfilling way is applying to jobs with a higher salary than your current one. I'm definitely not saying that that's the rational thing to do, but it's definitely something that will make you feel like you're moving towards your goal. The rational thing to do would be to make sure you learn new skills first, get a good reputation, and all kinds of other things that will increase the likelihood of getting hired. That's a lot harder to quantify, but ultimately just as important.

Real life is about opportunity. Even if you've got all the skills in the world, nothing is going to happen unless someone gives you a chance. And the more people you know or are in contact with, the more likely that becomes. But even with that there is a trade-off: if you spend all your time networking then you've got no time then you don't have to polish those skills. And sometimes you just end up being out with a friend who introduces you to someone who offers you a dream job, so the act of going out ends up paying out more than hours and hours of studying.

Like I said, there's a lot of nuance. And randomness. No one ever has only one goal on their mind either. Everyone's always balancing a multitude of goals that they are trying to attain, either long term or short term, passively or actively.

The best moments of my life have been where my goals and the ways of attaining them were completely obvious. Even if things got really difficult, knowing what to fight for, and how, just makes every moment seem valuable. It's important to take a step back every once in a while and think about what you are trying to attain; what you are working for.

I'm not sure how to turn this into some obvious advice piece, but here's how it seems to work for me: schedule times in your week/month where you do absolutely nothing. Don't expose yourself to technology during that time. Especially not the internet. The internet distracts. Just listen to some music while looking out at a nice bit of scenery. Write down the random thoughts that enter your head. Eventually you'll process through all of those thoughts, and what's left behind will be what drives you. Once you know what you want, you can think about how to get it. If it seems too big or too vague, subdivide it into obvious goals. Even if it doesn't seem that you can get to your final goal by attaining all your sub-goals, do them anyway. A clearer picture will emerge as you accomplish things.

I didn't want to make it sound easy, and it definitely isn't easy for me. The periods of my life where I had only a few obvious and supremely important goals are long gone. It's all about nuance and grey areas now. I take solace in the fact that, although I worry about my future choices, at least I won't have the opportunity to seriously destroy my life in any way that was previously possible when I was younger and had less experience. The chances of me turning into a total idiot from where I am now are pretty slim. The more years of experience I have in life, the harder it is to disrupt that foundation. I no longer have to worry about that foundation crumbling or sinking into the ground, but I do have to think about what to build on top of it.

Plenty of time to think about that.

Posted in Thoughts