One of the coolest things about humans is our innate need to better ourselves. I don’t know if there is another species on the planet that aims to learn a new skill, eat healthy or get fit with the only motivation being to improve.
Other mammals, reptiles, etc. adapt for survival. Many of us work to achieve goals, for no other reason than personal growth. People choose to accomplish or even just attempt something without a real need to do so. Actual needs, independent of these “personal goals,” are to have food, money, shelter and security.
At any given time, many of us are working toward something. Whether it’s a 30-day arm workout challenge or just to eat less sugar, you are trying to be better. Better might mean kinder, fitter, more sympathetic, healthier, smarter, a more aware driver. My definition of better can vary each day. I might decide one thing actually doesn’t matter too much to me anymore. And then another thought in the back of my head becomes my next top focus. I have short-term and long-term commitments to myself.
Think of all the self-help books out there, fitness classes, art classes, music lessons, the OLYMPICS, races, etc. The options are never-ending and are industries within themselves.
We strive to make ourselves better for the sole purpose of being our best selves. Once one goal is reached, another is set or the bar rises. We have a need keep getting better and better. Does this make people happy, constantly striving to be better, or does it create dissatisfaction? Can it be detrimental or growth-inducing? Personally, I think it’s amazing. It fuels my mind and body. If I get to the point where I don’t want to do something anymore or it doesn’t seem fun since it’s not necessary to live, there’s no pressure. That’s the beauty of it.
Some of my goals, I know I’ll never reach but the idea is nice. It doesn’t have to be discouraging. Some goals can’t even be measured or have no point of achievement. They act as a daily reminder to keep at it. Here’s one quote from Bruce Lee I read that provided comfort at the end of my final collegiate cross-country season when I didn’t perform as well as I thought I was capable of. And it’s still relatable to my life now:
A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.
Maybe you don’t reach all of your goals. But there’s a good chance you did more than you’d do if you hadn’t set the goal. By setting a goal to run a sub-22 minute 6k, I got way closer than I would have ever gotten had my goal been to simply PR or surpass the 23-minute mark. The constant need to be better is what makes humans so amazing and unique.