Two Types of Goals: Temporary vs. Historical

4 Jan

Donald Herbert wants to be successful. He wants to have plenty of money, a happy family, a healthy body, and a career that gives meaning to his life. Donald is like a lot of high achievers in that he wants the whole package. But not all of Donald’s goals should be weighed the same. He wants to own a nice house AND he wants to complete his master’s degree (something he always regretted not doing). My argument is that these goals are of a fundamentally different nature and that if you don’t understand the difference you could be setting yourself up for failure.

Wakehurst_Place_Mansion_1,_West_Sussex_-_Aug_2009

You can lose this.

This isn’t going to be a long post and I’m sure there is more research I could put into this, but for now I just want to make an important distinction between what I call “temporary goals” and “historical goals.” Either one my be driven by extrinsic or intrinsic motivation. Either one may be Donald’s way of gaining pleasure or avoiding pain. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is the goals themselves.

The fact is that some things can be taken away from you…somethings can’t. You may want to have lots of money, but you can lose money. Once you achieve “having lots of money” or “owning a Lamborghini” it’s possible that someday in the distant future, you could lose your wealth. Contrast this with something like education. Once you achieve getting a college degree you have it for the rest of your life. Once you climb Kilimanjaro, you will forever be a person “who climbed Kilimanjaro” and no one and no future event can change history.

degree

You can’t ever lose this.

This is often the reason why athletes would rather win championships than break records. In the future, records can be broken…championships live forever (“former record-holder” just doesn’t have the same ring to it). So, when you are mapping out your life plan, don’t neglect the temporary goals…because they are often the most important (physical health, family health, financial health, etc.), but make sure to also include some historical goals as well.

Being able to look back and say, “I did this and no one can take that away,” is a great feeling especially when you feel like you temporary achievements are starting to backslide. In many ways, historical goals are about getting credentials. You might have read all of the books, but without a degree it makes it hard to communicate your value.

Here are some examples of good historical goals:

– Winning a contest

– Getting a degree

– Getting a certificate (not a certification which has to be renewed)

– Running a marathon

– Getting a patent

– Publishing a book

– Winning awards

– Traveling

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