Micah and I were talking last week about “the ultimate goal.” This is the goal that if you achieve, you don’t necessarily feel the need to go any further, or any faster, but you don’t necessarily give up, either. Say, for example, that I had the ultimate goal to run a sub-1:30 half-marathon. If I ever did it, I would still run half-marathons. I would still put a lot of effort into my training and I would still run as fast as I could. I may even go faster than my “ultimate goal” pace. But I wouldn’t feel that I would have to set a new goal or go any faster. I’ve already gone as fast as I really want to go and anything beyond that is icing on the cake.
It’s pretty easy to set “ultimate goals” in running. You just take each distance and put a time to it. It should probably be something achievable, of course, but something you’re still going to have to work really hard for — something you can look back on and say, “I never thought I would do that, but I did it.” Outside of running, however, it’s not so easy. I have a vague goal to write a book one day, which I would say falls into the “ultimate goal” category. Once I’ve done it, I’m not sure that I’ll have to make another goal to write 10 books. Not that I won’t write 10 books — but if I write one, I’ll be pretty happy about that. I also have a goal to know how to build a house by the end of my life. And maybe I’ll end up building 3, but the important thing is that I know how to build one. I think both of those are attainable, and good things to have done. I currently have no idea what I would write my book about, but I’m sure there is one in me somewhere. (But I do wonder if finding the opportunities to learn to build a house will end up being as difficult as actually building one. After all, we live in the city. Everything is already built.) I realize, however, that life can pull all sorts of tricks on you. I may never write a book, but I may have a fulfilling career doing something different and completely unexpected.
And then there are the parenting goals, which are doubly hard because you’re talking about somebody else’s life. Manchild 1 has really good language skills. I’m tempted to set goals for him, like to write a book before he graduates from high school. I think he could probably do it. And it would be a really amazing experience for him. It would build confidence and give him some practical, real-world experience in something he is good at (or might be good at . . .). But clearly that is my goal, not his. As much as I want good things for him, all I can do is encourage him to do his best, to develop his strengths, to not neglect his weaknesses. If he decides he wants to write a book, I’ll be there to help him figure it out and I’ll cheer him on every step of the way, but if not that’s fine. Because that’s not the ultimate goal.
The ultimate goal is to raise kids that grow to be confident, happy, helpful, thoughtful, generous, selfless, conscientious, balanced, healthy, competent, respectful, humble, responsible, and joyful (to name a few), after all. I don’t want ruin their life by trying to live it for them. I want them to have the tools to make it a good life for themselves.
I just have to remind myself of these things every now and then. That’s all.