I was thinking the other day, as I often do, about life. I’m actually pretty much always thinking about life: where I’m going, where I’ve been, ways to improve and tweak every area. A question came to mind as I was walking over the Weeks Footbridge back from Cambridge to my office (that doesn’t matter but I figured I’d set the scene): Am I working towards building a foundation, or am I working towards hitting a target?
We humans go through life in certain ways characteristic of our temperaments and personalities. It seems like the answer to this question would be, “Whatever floats your boat!” and might be a question of whether you’re a J or a P on the Meyers-Briggs (if you know that). But I don’t think they both have advantages. I think one is inherently dangerous.
We all set goals. We all have a vision of where we want our lives to be in x number of weeks or months or years. We make Pinterest boards of our desired outcomes, and put time and money into achieving results. We’re trying to hit a target. But the problem becomes this: When you’re aiming, your precision has to be exact. Any slight movement, even a centimeter off, on this end and you’ll be miles off on the other end. Is it worth walking through life like that, trying to aim so precisely where you are right now that you paralyze yourself? I’ve experienced that, where I’ve put pressure on myself to act so precisely in the present moment there’s no room for failure. And when you’re holding yourself to those high standards, where even a centimeter off spells disaster, you’re not in a good place. The mindset is that this present thing has to be perfect in order to bring about that future thing.
The better path is to build a foundation. The better path is to not worry about what’s in the future, and to look to the past and previous accomplishments, dreams, and values to build a foundation. That way there’s room for error, room for mistakes, and there’s no need to worry about a perfect trajectory. You’re not freaked out about what you’re doing now, and if that effort is going to result in something far off. You’re focused on now knowing that something is built up under you. You can also see the direction because of the foundation. You might not be able to follow where that direction will go, but everything that came before well informs everything that comes after. It’s a much better plan of action than trying to hit a target.
So, are you building a foundation or hitting a target?