Passion and goals

Coming from this is a great speech on goal setting and underwear.  Okay, mostly goals, a brief mention of passion, and a really weak analogy involving underwear.  I pasted the speech below. Something I've given a lot of thought to lately is the idea of passion, interestingly, mostly in regards to dating and the type of person I want to date.  I'm a very passionate person and have many things I'm passionate about, in fact so many that I get frustrated that I can't find enough time to do everything I love.  Earlier in my 20's I would have told you I only wanted to date someone that shared many of the same interests, but if you ask me today I would say that while common interests are nice, finding someone that is truly passionate about something (anything!) is far more important (and passion for one's job doesn't count).  I haven't yet figured out why this is such a turn on for me, but I'd have to guess it has something to do with personality attributes such as determination, loyalty, and that inner fire to make the most of life.

So what is my goal at the moment?  I'd like to run my first marathon, and do so in less than 3 hours and 5 minutes to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  That will take me at least a few years to achieve, and still makes me shudder a bit about how hard that will be to train for.  You probably know where to find me most weekend mornings though...

Grit is not just about stubborn persistence. It’ no use persisting, after all, if a goal is truly impossible. While you’ve no doubt been bombarded with successful people telling you that dreams always come true, that we just need to believe, that if you can imagine it then it can happen, the dismal reality is that not every goal is worth pursuing. I might want to play in the NBA, but I’m not Spud Webb. I still want to compose the Great American Novel, but I also know that my college creative writing professor was right: I have no talent for fiction. Unless I’m honest about my limitations, I’ll waste time chasing a farfetched future, which quickly gets very very frustrating. Because dreams do come true. But first we need to pick the right one.

So how can we sort the useful long-term goals from the futile ones? How can we make sure that all of our struggle and practice and sacrifice will be worth it? Well, here’s my advice: ask yourself if the goal passes the underwear test.

Let me explain. One of the most deep seated features of the human mind is that it quickly takes things for granted, becoming numb to the predictable perceptions and pleasures of the world. Just think of your underwear. Do you feel it? Are you conscious of it? Of course not. That’s because you’ve adapted to the feel of underwear, habituated to the touch of cotton on your bum.

And this isn’t just about underwear. Psychological adaptation also explains why the first bite of chocolate cake is better than the second, and the second is better than the third. It explains why the first time you use that new iPhone you’re pretty excited, but before long it will just be another thing in your pocket. And then, a few weeks after that, you’ll start complaining that your phone (your phone!) can only hold 10,000 songs or that it downloads streaming videos from Netflix so slowly. The delight has vanished, replaced by the usual dissatisfaction. This is because our brain is designed to be ungrateful, every pleasure a fleeting thing.

What does this have to do with grit and long-term goals? Well, the only dreams worth pursuing are those that pass the underwear test. These are the pursuits that don’t bore us, even after we put in 10,000 hours of practice. They contain the kind of subtle thrills that don’t get old, that we don’t adapt to, that keep us motivated and interested for years and years at a time. Sure, there will be frustrations along the way, but these frustrations don’t feel permanent, which is what allows us to keep on working and learning and improving. Because that’s what it takes to succeed, to accomplish something interesting. Perhaps you want to invent the cure for malaria, or bake a perfect baguette, or create the next Facebook. Whatever – don’t apologize for your obsession. Just be grateful you are obsessed with something, that you’ve found a goal worth getting gritty over. Because if your goals ever feel tedious, if you find them as unnecessary as that last bite of chocolate cake, then you’re never going to put in the necessary work. Grit requires passion. Grit requires love. And love is just another name for what never gets old. Love is the opposite of underwear.

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