Why set goals if we're just going to die anyway?

Photo by  Greg Rakozy  on  Unsplash

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Last week, we were running a high school workshop with 20 students.

We had just finished leading a fun warm-up exercise that gets all the students up and cheering for each other.

Then, we explained the theme for the day: breaking down their long-term vision into tangible 1-year goals.

Right before we were about to dive into the next exercise, one of the girls raised their hands. In a very somber tone, she asked,

"Why should we set goals if we're all just going to die anyway?"

That wasn't part of the show...

I imagine how we felt was similar to how a standup comedian feels after getting heckled on-stage.

For a brief moment, my brother Joseph and I looked at each other shocked. The other 19 students also looked around at each other surprised.

This was not on the agenda. We had never been asked anything like that before, especially in a live workshop.

Did she just derail the entire workshop? Did the rest of the students just lose all focus and motivation- with most of the workshop remaining?

But I was really proud of how well we handled it.

Instead of panicking, or laughing it off, or ignoring the question, we took it in stride.

"Well... that's a really great question. What do you all think?" Joseph asked the rest of the students.

We ended up having an awesome unscheduled discussion around this question. The students provided some fantastic answers, and we wrapped it up really well.

"We're going to spend time living no matter what. We choose how we spend that time.

We can be safe, complacent and miserable. Or we can do what we love, be happy and make this world a better place.

The length of time is the same. You might as well do what makes you happy. To do what makes you happy, you have to grow, and to grow, you have to set goals."

This ended up becoming the theme and main takeaway from the workshop.

Why should we set goals if we're all just going to die anyway?

As we left the workshop, I couldn't stop thinking about this question.

I've thought about it before, but I kept thinking that other students, and even adults, must think about this regularly.

We're all going to die. There are two ways to view this.

You can take one side, which is:

I'm going to die one day, so does anything really matter? We're so small relative to the size and age of the universe. Nothing I do will ever matter, nothing I do ever works. Nothing good ever happens to me. I'm not worth the effort. I'd rather just be safe, and comfortable, and do my own thing, and take the easy way out.

Or you can take the other side, which is:

I'm going to die one day. Every day, every moment is a gift and a privilege. I get to wake up, breathe, love, lose, laugh, cry, and spend time with people I love. I get to do what I love and make people's lives better. I'm worth the growth and discomfort it takes to be the best version of myself, and I'm so grateful for this opportunity.

I hate to use this bland basic comparison, but it really is about viewing the glass half-empty or half-full.

The same exact information can be viewed as either the most depressing and paralyzing fact imaginable, or as the most liberating and empowering fact possible.

The question is actually the answer.

Question: "Why should we set goals if we're all just going to die anyway?"
Answer: "Because we're all going to die."

Jeff Bezos uses Regret Minimization (which decision will I least regret when I'm 80 years old in my rocking chair). Stoics and Latin Christians use Memento Mori (the practice of reflection on mortality.)

You are going to die one day.

Why would you waste any of it not being as passionate, courageous and fulfilled as you possibly can?

That's why you set goals.

What an outstanding question.

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