Is there a limit for goals?

Alright, i will share some of my thorns, and there is point to it all. Hopefully you can stay until the end.

Being shy and anxious is not easy, i suppose a lot (or some) of you might know about that. That being said, though, there is a bright side of it, at least that is how i’ve spend my life thinking: you can work these very rooted problems as a challenge, as a thrill, it almost feels like a purpose for your life to make it go away. Meaning, if one asks you “what is the purpose of your life?”, you could say: to make myself overcome shyness and anxiety. I honestly believe this is a very optimistic way to pursue life, the future, and most importantly: meaning… The last one is a troubling concern for the ones who can spend hours exclusively thinking.

As a man who is not that young, i can very safely say i did overcome shyness, which is a victory for me, right? Yes, it should be, i mean, it objectively is. Now, if that is the case, how come it feels so empty after doing it? I’ve been wondering, in a full open-minded way, HOW? How is it that something that deeply bothered my throughout my teenage years and i came to surpass [after so much trying] seems to mean nothing in the end? I must admit i did not come to an answer, not a satisfying one, at the minimum. Time goes, as it is supposed to, and my work continues with the anxiety, a disturbance that goes beyond reckoning in anyone who suffers from it should know, and once again i would wonder: “is this gonna solve my life? Is this gonna make myself satisfied?”. This questioning by itself is a massive turn down, since once you did achieve a goal of yours and realised it didn’t mean much, then you inevitably will reflect on the results of other goals being achieved, being solved.

I will, again, admit that i still did not find a way to [naturally] solve anxiety, but it could be that those reflections are in the way, and it makes sense, right? If that is the thrill of my existence, the great adventure, then by definition you don’t want to end, but the ambivalence of not wanting an adventure to end and still feeling sickly anxious can’t be fulfilling to anyone, i am certain you will agree with that. I’m aware this is not some deep discovery here that i am making, that the concept of ‘eternally running for something until you die’ is as old as one can remember, and yet there is no answer. With no answer, how come we still keep setting goals. and not only that, we encourage people who feel the existential blank to do the same. Hopefully you won’t see this as a “nothing is good and we should all give up” post, but it is something to wonder, isn’t it?

One possible answer, some say, is that we live too much into the future, and goals are useless since the beginning, at least mid and long term goals, and that we should all go for an hedonistic way of life. I have seen people who are completely satisfied with life in this way, mostly with an empty (when you think philosophically) existence, living off sex, drugs and if tomorrow is uncertain, why bother? How sure could i be, though, that this will be worth in the end? I also have tried to imagine this style of living for me, which did not do a thing, i know i couldn’t be that way, there is something inside me (and inside a lot of us) that yearns for a deep meaning, a big thing, could go from a family and descendants to move on with your blood to an ethernal existence of our soul. Do any of that resonate with you? This constant pondering and unsatisfaction, not only with your present life, but even with every single possibility of its outcome?


I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that yes, I hear you loud and clear.

Nietzsche went into a lot of this. I won’t pretend to be a Nietzsche scholar, but at a very high level his philosophy was that our time on Earth is limited, the things we do as individuals don’t change the end result, and there is no single thing we can do that will secure lasting fulfillment. Nihilists take that to mean “Life sucks and then you die,” Hedonists take it to mean “Life is short and pleasure is the greatest good,” but as I understand it, Nietzsche didn’t mean either of those things.

The questions you’re posing are closer to what Nietzsche had in mind. Life is about the journey, not the destination. We might build legacies that outlive us, but we will not outlive ourselves. We can do fulfilling things, but they won’t create permanent fulfillment. Those finite goals are destinations. When you reach a destination, what’s left? Eventually, nothing. So you start looking for purpose again. We can be sad that we didn’t find fulfillment in our goals, or we can reframe it as life is all about achieving goals and the pursuit of fulfillment. If you’re not looking to fulfillment as a destination that will always be out of reach, you can enjoy looking to fulfillment as something to guide you forward.

I’ve struggled with this for a few years, and I’m struggling with it from a different angle again. From my early teen years, my “purpose” was to be an engineer. If I could be an engineer, my life would have purpose and meaning. TL;DR, college was a bust for me, and I was getting torn apart because the one path (so I thought) toward my fulfillment was draining my soul. I dropped out, got a low-level drafting job, and started to see a path forward to an engineering career. That path gave me purpose, and I pushed hard for it.

By 2018, I had inarguably made it. I was doing all the engineery things, peers were turning to me for answers and ideas, and I could see that my work was making a difference. It was great–until it wasn’t. I felt so unfulfilled in my job. What was going on? I felt like I was spinning my wheels and stagnating. Obviously it was the job, so I got another job. Same thing.

By that point (last year), I couldn’t imagine doing any engineering work that would make me any happier. So what? Was my life’s ambition just a phase? Is there something more satisfying I’d been missing, maybe that I’ve missed for years? I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing for a living. All I knew was that work was no longer fulfilling. What’s been fulfilling is investing in my marriage and my house. Great, so now I have to work an unfulfilling job to fund my pursuit of fulfillment?

I started looking online for pivot careers for engineers. Then I found an article about engineer job satisfaction. It said engineering is one of the top 10 unhappiest professions for all the reasons I was feeling. Engineers tend to believe they were born, not bred. They believe their careers will give them purpose, so when they figure out that their careers are just jobs, they feel disillusioned and futile. I thought about that. So if I pivot to another career, what then? I learn some new stuff, master new skills, and when I manage all that I’ll have come to the end of that road and will be looking for something else to give my life meaning. I realized that what I’ve heard all my life about jobs being a means to an end–that drivel that didn’t apply to me because I was more than a paper-pushing desk jockey–was right.

The idea that I won’t find fulfillment in a job or an achievement is actually freeing. I can stop running and just walk. Now I’m faced with this challenge: How do I embrace that mindset? I understand it well enough on an academic level. It makes sense and sounds peaceful, but how do I separate my sense of purpose from my career after a decade of them defining each other? I’m still working on that, but for now it’s a relief to know that I haven’t exhausted my purpose on this earth.

The Disney movie “Soul” does a great job of walking through this topic with appeals to emotions and jazz music. Give it a watch if you get a chance!

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From: Lisalovesfeathers

Hi Friend, thank you for that post, Congrats on beating shyness, that was a big one to get past so well done. As for other things, there are not many options available if its not doable on your own, if you had a toothache you would go to a dentist so if you have a problem with mental health I would suggest some good old therapy. I think it would help to clear a lot of your thoughts, put them where they need to be. make your mind less cluttered and give you more space to relax a bit. give it a go, you have nothing to lose. good luck. Lisa. x

Hi again,
one step a time. you have overcome a huge step in your shyness. take a moment and let that think in.
your mind needs to process all of that also. the more you do, the more you work on yourself the more your mind is
working. also after
your mind is processing good things the way like bad things, there is no difference for it. all is one cup.
every step matters, also a step to take care of yourself.
have you also considered therapy yet ? talking about all of that, with someone professional always helps and is
definetily not a chilche. with so many things in life.
you matter :purple_heart:

@Man128898 - You truly have been thinking deeply about who you are and where you are in life. Finding our purpose seems to be a struggle for so many of us. We think we find the path to it, get to where we think we want to be and it’s “so that’s all there is to that?”. And we search again.

Searching internally is a necessary thing, and you’ve found that. Then there is that external search for meaning that Sheetmetalhead talked about. For many of us with this deep of a search, reaching out for counseling or therapy as a way to really talk through the process can be really, really helpful. Have you tried that at all?

Otherwise, I know that I find it helps to keep myself grounded in this moment, be present in what is happening now around me, and taking baby steps to change those things in me that I feel need changing. Sometimes the best outcomes are the small things we do with and for others each day that help us connect to each other. We’re here, we hear you, and listening my friend.

It is certainly a great confrontation with ourselves to separate our purpose from our work or career. I must say i absolutely agree about how freeing it feels when you manage to, which i did a couple years ago as well. At the time, as it seems for yourself too, i thought “this work is not my purpose, it’s not here i’ll find meaning, so i must look outside”, and i tried, actually, i’ve been trying. Our whole culture revolves around career and money, so it’s not an easy task.

Anyway, considering we did it, you mentioned you were glad you did not exhausted your purpose on this earth, could it be simply trying to find a purpose? Could that be a purpose on itself? If so, it would get into the same problem i mentioned on the post: by definition you can’t achieve it, because if you do, what then?

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I don’t think A purpose, so much as general purpose. I don’t know, it’s a nebulous idea. I can’t get a firm grasp on it anymore than I can firmly grasp a purpose. I think specific achievements are waypoints in a fulfilled life.

Think of it like a road trip. What makes the memory: stopping at each landmark, or the times in the car singing songs and playing I Spy and eating road trip snacks while you go visit the landmarks? If life is greater than the sum of its parts, then seeking fulfillment in the parts will leave life feeling deficient. Getting to the landmarks isn’t the point; otherwise, why not fly? The waypoints are the goals, but the journey is its own purpose.

Let’s say you leave New York to visit the Grand Canyon. That’s the goal of the trip. You could drive straight through nonstop, anxious for the end result, or you can stop at all the tourist traps and have some good laughs. Then, once you get there and ooh and aah, what’s next? You can’t stay there. Having met your goal, you can make the long boring drive home, or you can take different roads, see different landscapes, stop at different tourist traps. That’s the point of the trip anyway! Setting the goals as purposes robs the journey of joy and gives you nothing to look forward to on the other side. Since we’re speaking in metaphors and don’t have day jobs to get back to, why stop at the Grand Canyon? Throw a dart at a map and go to the landmark there, stopping along the way. Do it again and again. The Alamo won’t be as interesting as Pike’s Peak, but they’re all goals to guide your trip.

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Very insightful, really. Thank you for sharing.

I am so proud that you have overcome your shyness - people go their whole lives without achieving that. The optimistic approach you refer to is refreshing, so I’m glad this helped you pursue a more positive outlook on life and the future. The last part of your comment is what stands out for me. You mention meaning and how this can concern people who ‘spend hours exclusively thinking’ - is this perhaps you? Is searching for meaning in your accomplishment destroying all the work you have done? Maybe there is no answer - you just overcame it! Does the same also apply to your anxiety - would overcoming it not be enough? If the goal is a happy and rewarding life, wouldn’t beating these demons be an amazing start?

I understand how not finding these answers can make you consider the point of going on but wouldn’t giving up negate all the hard work you have put in? You mention setting up goals which may be a great place to start but perhaps not on your own. Seeking outside assistance to put a realistic plan in place may help you feel some of the fulfilment you say you lack.

From how you speak, you already know that adopting a hedonistic way of life will bring you no long-term answers. Escape can feel freeing but will not point you in the direction you want to head.

With outside assistance, Heart Support can help you locate you can come to believe how much you matter.