Goals are like crack. Are you an addict?

Heroin is addictive. Not that I would know.

So is smoking. I tried that when I was a kid. I got grounded. I liked going outside so I didn’t do it again. I wish behavioural change was that simple as an adult.

You know what else is addictive?


All a junkie thinks about is his next fix. The fact that’s he’s just had a hit is irrelevant. It doesn’t satisfy him. It merely agitates him. It makes him crave more.

As his addiction grows, he takes less and less notice of everything else. His health deteriorates. He starts to smell like rotten eggs. He loses his job. He steals from his family to feed his habit. He’ll stab friends in the back if he has to.

The junkie becomes a shell. A mere vessel. He’s unrecognisable.

His vision is tunneled and the only thing he sees at the end is the bliss his next hit will provide.

He won’t stop until people who care about him intervene. Or until his heart stops in a damp, dark alley after he’s loaded up on more than his frail body can handle.

Does that sound like how we act when we’re chasing some mystical goal?

There’s another aspect that makes goals so dangerous, aside from what we allow to disintegrate to achieve them.

It’s called goal bias.

We are so focused, so determined, so intent on achieving what we have set out for ourselves that nothing can knock us off course. Barriers are battered down. Obstructions are leaped. Nothing can stop us on our path to accomplishment.

You know what else happens? We miss out.

Usually, we aim for a goal because it gives us something. A feeling, an opportunity.

What if, on the way to our goal, there were alternatives and options that provided us with an equal or better payoff?

Would we see them?

We usually want something because it allows us to have something else. We want money so we can have freedom. Or we want a good job so we can do interesting, fulfilling work.

But what if you don’t need the goal to get what comes after?

Above my desk I have a quote from Shadow Divers: “Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average.”

I want excellence so I can have personal freedom. I don’t want to be a slave to someone else’s ambitions. I think that being really fucking good will eventually lead me to have control over how I spend my time and energy.

Maybe it will.

Or maybe, on the road to excellence, I’ll miss what I am really looking for.

As Fat Tony said to Nero in Antifragile: “Don’t be fooled by money. These are just numbers. Being self-owned is a state of mind.”

And we shouldn’t be fooled by our goals. They’re ephemeral. Like vapour.

They don’t matter.