Setting Goals, Making Meaning


Wanting what we want and owning that we do can be a difficult thing to do.

There is a hesitancy to wanting what we want because we have beliefs that we are being selfish and self-centered.  Denying ourselves what we want seems to have some special virtue.  The guilt of “having” can cause us to be less than honest about what we are wanting.  Living with less can seem to be more “spiritual.”  There is the idea that if we live with less, the goods of the world will somehow magically become a more equitable distribution of good.

And so we hang back for a while, denying ourselves, before we impulsively and compulsively give ourselves what we’ve been depriving ourselves of having.

The simple truth is that you’re playing less than, you’re having less than, you’re holding back from being and having the fullness of who you are, and what you want helps no one.  Your acting like you don’t want lovely things serves no one.  Your being “less than” for the sake of some misbegotten notion of modesty and humility keeps you from entering into the wholeness of the person that you have been created to be.

Healthy patterns of attachment mean an ability or capacity to want what we want and to be able to attach to it with appreciation, full of enjoyment and a sense of ownership that is proud and grateful.  Attachment also applies to job and professions, to friends, associates, and to relationships. Attachment is a mark of mental health.

Healthy patterns of attachment are developed from childhood, and even when they are weak and not so healthy, they can grow and develop by if we learn to be honest about our wanting.

Ambivalent patterns of attachment cause low self-esteem because we are never fully able to attach, to own, to have and to hold nearly and dearly those people and things that are significant aspects of our wanting.

Avoidant wanting will express itself in individuals that fail to appreciate their own capacity to have. They not only do not know what to want, but would rather not want or have goals.  These are the people who prefer to allow their lives to unfold without goal-setting.  And they will get just what they want: a misguided, often spiritualized “unfolding” here and there with little or no direction or purpose. Not only is this not the way life works, it not the way the attracting brain works.

Avoidant personalities are reclusive from relationships and isolate from others.  Being in touch with their “wanting” means being in touch with others, with the ways and the systems that fulfilled wants come to us.  Avoidant wanting is reclusive by its very nature.

Goals are also outcomes of a high UpSpiral.  The more intact your goals are, the higher your UpSpiral.  And, likewise, the higher your UpSpiral, the more creative and the more completely are your goals an expression of the repertoire of your strengths and abilities.

Goals are like engines of energy and productivity that create a synergy that will bring into sharper and sharper awareness what the vision is for your life.  Your brain has its greatest synchrony and economy of energy when you’re clear.  Your brain knows better what to seek out and what to be receptive to in its sorting process.  The brain knows better what is being “hunted” and what the focus of attention ought to be.

With clear goals, the brain can use the limited amount of psychic energy it has each day, using that energy most wisely.

The issue that underlies the formation of goals is meaning-making.

How do we make meaning?  What are the constructs of meaning-making that provide a sense of personal significance?

These “meanings” are different at different times in our lives, so a knowledge of developmental issues is important.

We need to know how people are making meaning before we believe that their goals are real representations of something that will give them any kind of lasting value, if they, in fact, don’t just fizzle and are ever accomplished.

We especially need to know if a person is going through a life transition that is causing them to question meaning in their lives, before we agree to assist them in attempting to put great effort into pursuing goals that will be fleeting, in either accomplishing them or in feeling any sense of fulfillment in having done so.

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute