Beware of false dichotomies: Goals vs Love

There is a whole industry around goal setting. There are tons of books and articles about goals. They tell you about the importance of goals, how to set them, how to achieve them, etc.

There is also the other side. They say to forget about goals. They say to do what you love, and it all works out.

Guess what? Both sides are right.

It is good to have goals. Goals are like dreams. They can be amazingly inspirational. Lofty goals can inspire and mobilize nations. JFK set the goal of reaching the moon. And, we did. That was good. MLK dreamt of equality. We are getting there. That is a good goal. Years ago, I set a goal of running a marathon. I trained, ran the Chicago marathon, and was happy about it.

It is also good to focus on what you love. Who doesn’t want to do that? It sounds obvious, but can be hard to accept. Recently, I quit my job because I didn’t love what I was doing enough.

Both sides can also be wrong.

If someone has the wrong priorities, or is not ambitious enough, they can set goals that limit themselves. Similarly, if someone loves the wrong things, doing what they love can be detrimental.

What is interesting is to see how these sides interact.

The goal-setting side tends to be more positive and inspirational. They will sometimes talk about love for your work, and sometimes they won’t.

The other side tends to be more negative. They look down on the corny self-help stuff, and proclaim their love for their work. A good example of this is the recent article titled ‘Forget Self-Improvement’. It is completely ridiculous and sets up a false dichotomy between having goals and doing what you love.

In reality, the world needs both sides of the story. It needs people with goals and dreams, and it needs people doing what they love.

But if I were to wish anything for myself, I want both: to have good goals in what I love. It doesn’t matter which comes first, the goals or the love. I’m fairly sure it is possible both ways.

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