If you haven't already done so, make a list of lifetime goals that you have for yourself. Make it as long or as short, as detailed or vague, as outlandish or realistic as you want. I won't be able to peek in & look at them, after all. :) I would recommend that you write every single thing that you can think of, though, even if it takes you hours to complete. If it's done in three minutes, too, that's perfectly okay. Just make sure that your list's not missing anything.
I know that MANY times, especially in the self-help circles, this exercise is used in a prescribed way. It is usually a tool to light a fire under your belly- at it's worst, it's a tool an author might use to guilt-trip you into action. Well, you won't get that from me. In fact, I'm about to give you some very different advice. I want you to review every goal very, very carefully. I don't want you to necessarily think of every single step that you could take to meet that goal, though you can if you wish. Some people love this kind of exercise, and some loathe it. I hope that I can help both kinds of folks here. With each goal, I want you to examine it from what may be a new light.
The typical approach at this point is to take the goal, break it into bite-size steps you can take to meet it, set a date & time to meet the goal one step at a time, and an end date (deadline) by which you want to reach it. My approach, however, is not so typical. I want you to realize first that time itself isn't even real. I mean, according to law it is, but if you give it some thought...we just made it up. Granted, the scientists & all worked out an awesome system to categorize what we've named time, but it's an illusion nonetheless (just like our belief in paper money having real value, but that's a whole other topic). I want you to ask yourself why, if you're inclined to do so, you are giving a specific deadline to meet a goal. For example, if you're now thirty-eight, you may have a goal that you'll "be in the best shape of your life when you reach age forty". Now, the goal, in & of itself, is perfectly neutral, neither good nor bad. It's an incredibly common goal, usually reachable- although outside circumstances can certainly stop it from occurring, that's true enough- and it just may bring you some joy to reach it.
I want you to look deeply at the goal. We'll continue to use that same goal as the example. Why is forty the magic age, or the deadline for you? Recognizing that the creation of what we call time is nothing more than a way for our minds to turn order into chaos, think of your goal in that light. I'm still not saying it's bad or wrong. I just want you to broach it from this new angle. I want you to also know that (if you aren't thinking along these lines already), the goal may not really be yours at all- in other words, not something you'd have come up with on your own- but may be a goal that has been repeatedly, socially-programmed into you to have. It may be a goal which is desirable for you to meet in theory, yes. It may be a goal that others would like to see you meet- your personal trainer, your children, your spouse, your mother, even the leader of your nation. I'm not saying that just because it was social-programmed, if that's even the case, that it was wrong. Just recognize what's driving the goal.
In this exercise, you've found my simple question to ask yourself every time that you set a goal for yourself, major or minor. You can ignore me or call me kooky- I don't mind. I'm not an expert on anything. I'm just passing on some information that's made me rethink many things in my life. Ask yourself if the goal is something that you would've come up with if you lived in a different culture- one where exercise is not revered, one where weight is not relevant whatsoever, and fitness is not considered a measure of health- if you'd still have the goal. If you would still have the goal, no matter what- even if you were alone on a desert island, with no one to reward your efforts or see your work- chances are it's a goal from deep within you, not one that's been programmed into you to possess. If you're only doing it for the glory of the outer world, if you'd rather spend the time on something else, but feel you must achieve this, you may want to go over just how worthwhile it really is. What happens after you meet the goal? Will you continue to set ever-higher mountains to climb? Do you want to continue with the disciplined lifestyle that such a lifetime goals incurs? Is this a goal you've had for years, or did it just occur to you? What even brought the goal to mind in the first place? Can you locate, in the windmills of your mind, the origins of the goal?
Remember, too, that much must be sacrificed to live a goal-oriented life, as opposed to a live-in-the-moment life. One is not better than the other, necessarily. But every goal you set for the future exacts a cost in the present, and it usually is not a one-time cost to pay. Ask yourself if the goal's end result is really worth the time, the effort & the potential risk involved. Keep in mind that an injury can occur, someone close to you may get seriously ill & take your time away from dieting & exercising, or your life may even end before you get to the finish life. The goal may, however, be a welcome respite from day-to-day life's struggles. Reaching the goal may make you realize that you can achieve even bigger & better things. Everyone is different, and I place no judgment on your answers- the judgment, and final decision, is yours.
From now on, if you choose to live a goal-directed life, do it consciously. Because to live with total consciousness is paradoxically live the most simplistic life available. The important thing is to go after what is simplest for you to follow- and that is the self-directed goal, the one you'd choose to go after even if no one else cared when you achieved it. But if it's merely a socially-programmed, societal-guilt-induced goal, there is usually nothing simple or minimalist about it. And the goal will then be unlikely to fulfill you- worse, it may even make you feel like you're walking on an ever higher & faster treadmill, one that you'll run out of strength to bear. When the goal comes from the outside, not the inside, it's achievement "high" or "buzz" will likely be short-lived, if the good feeling even comes at all.