We all have ambitions, goals, dreams. We seem to spend our life “getting there”. Have you ever gotten there and not found it was what you hoped?
Where is “there”?
When we talk about getting there, we have to ask, where is “there”? Seems obvious, but I find that a lot of people don’t spend much time establishing those targets. That is a shame. The place you are trying to get to determines a lot of your life’s journey. You better be sure you know where you are going or sure you trust your instincts to follow a constantly unfolding path to an unknown destination.
Seriously, a lot of people assume they know where they should go because it has been told to them by someone, probably parents or advisors or counselors. So they commit their life to reaching a goal they may not have considered carefully.
It is a tragedy to get to your life’s goal only to discover you did not care about it. This applies to all aspects of life, but I will try to focus us on art.
Who sets your goals?
Who actually sets your goals? Do you investigate and analyze and try out things to select your goal? Or do you accept what is expected of you?
Let me give a personal, non-art example. As a young Engineer, I assumed the goal was to “progress” up the management chain. It was projected (by managers) as the normal growth path. Well, I worked hard and was given the opportunity to step onto that ladder. I fairly quickly discovered I hated it. It did not fit my talents and interests at all. My love was Engineering. Luckily, my company was very good about wanting people to be in the most effective role. I went back to being “just” an Engineer and loved it. When I moved up, it was on the Engineering track.
It was kind of traumatic, but I clarified my goals. I felt like a failure as a manager, but a success as an Engineer. That was when I began to understand that I am responsible for my own goals.
What is the cost?
Working toward a goal always involves some costs. Make sure you understand them and are willing to pay what is required.
It is fairly easy to quantify the direct costs. As a photographer I need rather expensive cameras and lenses. There is also the high powered computer, lots of fast disk storage and backup, memory cards, etc. Add in travel, workshops, training and other education. If you listed it all it would be pretty intimidating. But this is just the direct cost.
There are indirect costs and opportunity costs. I am a fine art photographer. Basically this means I do what I do for the love and the creativity and the personal reward, not to make a lot of money. I better have an independent means of supporting myself and my family. Right now I am OK with that. It could change in the future.
Don’t forget the opportunity costs. Any time you pursue a goal you exclude other things. Did you trade off becoming an artist rather than being a doctor? It is a safe bet to assume you would make a lot more money as a doctor. But if you hated it, would the money be worth it? Maybe our choices are not so clear cut, but we always make tradeoffs.
Be honest with yourself about the costs you are willing to pay for the destination you want to get to.
The journey is the destination
Here is the reality I have discovered. Yours may be different. Starting from where we are now, we usually do not know what the destination will actually be. We may have a vague idea or a wish, but the reality will usually be different than what we imagined.
So we cannot really plot a path to the destination. It is a moving target and we cannot anticipate the twists and roadblocks along the way. What we can do is take a step that seems to take us in the direction we want to go. Just a step. Then evaluate where we are now and decide what direction to take the next step. And so on. When we get to that destination, it is probably the one we have determined we actually want, not necessarily what we set out to do.
Along the way we experience life. This is what it is about. That is what the phrase means. Live your life today, not in the future. Appreciate everything you find. Be grateful for the day and its experiences. To really appreciate the journey you have to be mindful and living in the moment. When we live this way, we get to the end having lived a full and joyful life. Regardless of what state we arrived at.
Will you sacrifice your life for a goal you may not even want or will you live your life every day as a mindful, joy filled experience? I hope you clarify and find your own rewards. And make your own art.