Is Goal-Setting Really Important?

September 16, 2016 by Rajat Taneja

Before we start, I have a question for you.
Do you think we have to save planet Earth?

I just finished reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book called “Creative Schools.” Its introduction was called One Minute to Midnight, and it made me rethink about my approach towards life.

One paragraph in the book’s introduction went like this:
“It’s often said that we have to save the planet. I’m not so sure. The Earth has been around for almost five billion years, and it has another five billion years to run before it crashes into the sun. As far as we know, modern human beings like us emerged less than two hundred thousand years ago.

If you imagine the whole history of the Earth as one year, we showed up at less than one minute to midnight on December 31. The danger is not to the planet, but to the conditions of our own survival on it. The Earth may well conclude that it tried humanity and is not impressed. Bacteria are much less trouble, which may be why they’ve survived for billions of years.”

These lines made me realize that I’d always thought of saving the planet as the end goal, but it’s just a means goal to save humanity. The Earth will take care of itself like it always does.

The realization reminded me of an email shared by Abhinav last week, on Vishen Lakhiani’s session. It said: Our thoughts don’t create our reality. Our beliefs do.

Then I wanted to know how our belief system is created, besides the default one gifted by our culture, family and surroundings. I researched a bit, gave it some more thought, and concluded with this: We are what we consume.

And this isn’t just another wording for ‘we are what we eat.’ We are also the books we read, the movies we watch, the experiences we go through…these make up our belief system and eventually, our perception of reality.

I could relate to this as I’ve experienced a shift in my priorities just by developing a habit to read one book a month, and some weight-loss too (without hitting the gym).

There was an addiction I had till a few months back, but it never really occurred to me till the time I started pursuing a goal to control one of its side effect.

No, I wasn’t addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling. It was food, and that included a lot of sweets.

I liked being called a foodie and eating food whenever I could was a celebration of life. But one day it occurred to me that eating food three times a day meant not eating anything for long hours, and that’s when I used to eat junk/sweets and eventually put on weight. So I spread my diet across the whole day, and also started having a light dinner because the digestion process is slower during the night.

And it worked! I could reduce my weight without hitting the gym. Eating three times a day was a concept that didn’t suit me.

Getting curious about the concept of concepts, I thought why not question some other concepts too. And I realized I was doing that already.

Coming back from work, I started writing blogs, preparing speeches and creating some minimal design graphics. I realized that this concept of working during the day and resting at night is from the Industrial Age.

Working on myself started fuelling my energy and I continued like this on most weekends too. I didn’t feel like resting that much as I was not draining energy, I was getting it back. Sometimes, I got so engrossed in creating something that I stopped consuming things, especially movies and tv shows. I also started measuring my time in terms of creation vs. consumption.

Consumerism is another concept from the Industrial Age.

There was a page I found on Instagram from Matt Haig’s book titled Reasons to Stay Alive.

If you think about it, these distractions often take away a lot of our time and energy. Sometimes, to the point that we start doubting ourselves too much.

During my time at Niswey, I was not always at peace with my procrastination. I took it as something that always stopped me from giving my best. With the help of some feedback from Abhinav and Suma, I realized that I just had to channel it smartly. Procrastination can be a blessing if we want it to be.

Day before yesterday, I had my first humorous speech at my Toastmasters Club.

The procrastinator inside me had ensured that I was practising my speech even a few minutes before the meeting started. I just felt like my first punchline should come right in the second or third line, to make a good first impression early on. So I added a simple goof-up line and used it in my speech.

That line happened to be the best punch in my speech. In fact it was the only punch; no one really laughed after that.

I realized that procrastination had come to my rescue. Earlier, I might have taken this as a habit of not being able to finish a speech on time, but now I’d just made people crack up within the first three lines of my speech.

Now, coming back to goal-setting…

There was an amazing video shared by Suma on Vishen Lakhiani’s “3 Most Important Questions.”


These questions are:


  1. What all do you want to experience out of life?
  2. How do you want to grow in life?
  3. What do you want to contribute to the planet?

“The experiences you want out of life help you realize whether you’re living life the way you’d want to see it on your last day. Think about travel, health, fitness, love, intimacy, relationships, family, social life, personal belongings. The assumption: You have unlimited time and money.

The way you want to grow can be in so many ways. What books would you want to read? What skills would you want to master? How would you want to develop as a human being? Do you want to be more confident? Do you want to deal with stressful situations with positive stamina. Would you want to meditate more, or grow spiritually in any other way?

The contribution you want to make to the planet can start with contributing to your family, to your friends, and to your workplace. Now go beyond that. How would you want to contribute to your city, to your society, to the world? It could be teaching kids at school or creating a piece of art. How would you make the world a better place through your creations, or your donation of time, or money, or expertise, or your love? This would also include running a great company. This goal would make your legacy.”

You have 90 seconds for each question.

Want to write down your own goals? Let’s do it!

(270-300 seconds later)

Doesn’t goal-setting always make us realize that we can do so much more in life?

One issue is that we often start playing roles of what we’re expected to be. Some of us always have a plan, but we don’t see the urgency. Some of us don’t even plan.

If we are told today that we have just two years to live, or even five, would we start living in a better way? Wouldn’t we start following our heart a lot more?

Why not do it anyway? Who knows how many years all of us will live?

Most of us end up chasing money and living the same year over and over again, and then call it a life. We fail to realize that money is a means goal, and not an end goal.

Just like consumerism and eating three times a day, money is a concept that has been wired into our brain despite our awareness of it. Similarly, there are many more concepts to watch out for.

Money is a concept.

Time is a concept.

Public education is a concept.

Piling up degrees is a concept

MBA is a concept.

We have aspiring entrepreneurs chasing MBA degrees today; entrepreneurs ready to spend 30-60 lakh rupees on business school education. On being asked why they’re taking such a huge loan and studying for two years, when they can invest those 30-60 lakhs in their business and start two years earlier. And they go speechless, because they’re not thinking about their end goal.

Having a fixed salary is a concept.

Work-life balance is a concept.

Pursuing one job at a time is a concept.

Deciding careers during teenage is a concept.

Wrong vs. Right is a concept. Right?

When we set our goals and have a supportive team to help us achieve them, we are able to think beyond such concepts and means goals.

We give ourselves the permission to collect the dots and then connect the dots. And we can only connect the dots going backwards. Right?

This is how I see the dots getting connected for me, thanks to the Goals sessions at Niswey:

2014: Thinking on my own
2015: Structuring my thoughts to write a blog
2016: Structuring my words to give a talk
2017: Talking on a diverse range of topics to enhance my thinking

I find it exciting to describe to people how the Niswey Experience has helped me evolve.

In four lines, this is what being at Niswey might feel like:

Abhinav: “You can achieve anything in life, when you have the right intent for it.“
Suma: “And you have to do it in your own way.”
Abhinav: “We can only enable you to chase your dreams. The stage is all yours!”
Suma: “By the way, what do you dream about?”

As for people who don’t want to commit to any goal in life: Don’t set any goals.

Just keep on dreaming, and set a deadline for every dream.

For those who don’t dream, start with a wish.

Last week, I was blown away by Suma’s email that was titled “Niswey’s vision,” where she enabled us to visualize Niswey over the next 2-3 years.

The last line was about the goal of the vision:
“The objective is to create wealth for everyone in the company. Because that will enable each of us to go forth and do great things for others and the planet.”

Setting goals (and pursuing them) eventually helps us discover why we’ve been put on this planet for.

So if you ever ask yourself: Is goal-setting really important?
Just make it a goal to never doubt that again.