Goals: Great for Sports, Lousy for Life – Part 2

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A lot has been written about how much sports can teach us about life. We don’t hear so much about the ways in which sports are not at all like real life. In relation to goals, here are three ways sports and life should not mix:

David Madison / Getty Images — From the article By Courtney Subramanian appearing in the Times News Feed on October 5, 2011 — Headline: High School Kicker Breaks NFL Record in Heart-Stopping Friday Night Lights Moment — “Straight out of a scene from Friday Night Lights, with 27 seconds left on the clock, high school place-kicker Austin Pacheco nailed a 64-yard field goal to clinch a 27-24 victory over Bishop Manogue High School in Carson City, Nev. on a Saturday afternoon. Pacheco’s goal not only marked a dramatic win for Carson High School, but also was kicked from farther than any NFL kicker has hit from in a professional game, the Nevada Appeal reports.”

1. When a goal is achieved in sports, the ball or puck stops… and often becomes entangled in a net

2. When a goal is achieved in sports, the entire game stops and the action does not resume until there is some kind of reset

3. When a goal is achieved in sports, at least half of the players in the area of play were actively struggling against you and your team, striving to prevent you from scoring the goal

Those are all goal/sports elements that are not conducive to real life accomplishment. That said, all too often it happens by default. Right?

When and if a goal is achieved, we can feel a little bit stuck, not knowing what to do next. We oft times can get so hyper-focused on a particular goal (to the exclusion of everything else) for so long, that perspective on everything else going on can easily get misplaced.

When and if a goal is achieved, time is being lost (read “wasted”) while a new plan with new goals is getting formulated and laid out.

And too often, we place so much emphasis on accomplishing a particular goal that we see as an opponent – enemy even! – anyone and anything that is seen as getting in the way of the goal.

In short, goals belong in sports, not in real life. Not all sporting terms and concepts serve as a reliable metaphor for life accomplishment. “Goal” is one of them.

If you say this is all about semantics, I will tell you that you’re right! Words mean things. My advice is to avoid words and concepts that potentially create negative, limiting, and/or obsolete ways of viewing the things you want to get done in life.

… especially when there is an awesome alternative to goals and goal-setting; a real-life metaphor that works so much better.

I will outline that better alternative next.

Jim Aitkins

Photo credit to Stock Exchange (stock.xchng) at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1158482
From “Life Is A Highway” By Rascal Flatts…
“Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I wanna drive it all night long”


Long time Obstacle Blaster fans may recall the Case Against Goals series, which left off at Part 6. In Part 5 and Part 6, I began to discuss traffic and how our behavior on the road relates to the bigger picture of life. I started to outline a list called “What Can Traffic Teach Us About Life”.

If you would like to get caught up with where this is going, but you don’t feel like reading six or seven or eight articles, please read Part 4 as in that article we take a look at how the Disney animated movie Tangled is a wonderful metaphor that introduces this line of thinking; namely that life is fluid.

I like to be original, but these are not original thoughts. There is a repeated line at the end of the chorus in the song, “Old Man River,” the title piece from the landmark 1927 Broadway musical Showboat. The line refers to the great Mississippi river: “He jes keeps on rollin’ along,” but of course it is a really an observation about life.


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