I want to travel a lot of places, and I hope to someday visit all 50 states. At the beginning of the year, I decided that it would be reasonable to set a goal to visit three new states this year. After all, I already had a trip to Washington planned and it seemed likely that by traveling more to the Northeast for work, I could drop in on a few small New England states.
So I went to Washington for a vacation in January. (That’s one.) Then work took me unexpectedly to Missouri. (Two.)
And then last week I had a really awesome work trip traveling to Massachusetts and New Hampshire (Three and four. Ka-pow!).
I haven’t intentionally set a lot of goals in the past. I think it’s always seemed like a silly idea because things change so much that any multi-year goals become irrelevant within months. The probably work great for some people– like the people who decide they want to be a doctor at age 8 or have an all-consuming passion to write a graphic novel about whales– but I don’t have that sort of clarity.
Instead, I think about the time that I had to make and write down my 1-year, 5-year, and lifetime goals on a set of index cards for a class my freshman year of college. I still have them someplace, and I can tell you that it’s not pretty. I’m glad that the vast majority of those didn’t work out as I’d once hoped.
But, I’m starting to come around a little bit. I still have had some goals (and even more vague, wishful ideas) that didn’t materialize. But it’s quite nice when they do. And it’s awesome when I crush them– like visiting 4 new states in 3 months, which is something like 533% better than I planned!
I think the 50 states goal* is a bit silly, but not too silly (and certainly not uncommon). That probably contributes to its success– it’s easy to quantify. Also, because lots of people do it, it’s less likely that people will laugh at it (perhaps my biggest fear). And it’s something that doesn’t take sustained effort on a day-to-day basis– goals that rely on making new habits are much harder, which is why I still leave stuff cluttered all over the house and haven’t ever managed to meditate consistently. New goal: master those types of goals someday.
*BTW, I looked at the map, and my current count is 28 states. I exclude most states I visited as a kid because I can’t remember them (6) and states where I’ve only been in the airport making a connection (3). Also, South Dakota because I only rode through about 20 miles of it and I don’t think I ever realized I’d left Iowa!