Do I need to focus on a single goal?

Captain Ahab, Mandela, Eddy Merckx … all had one single goal in their mind (or it seems that way) and were able to set everything aside in order to reach that goal. Nothing was important, but that lone objective.

The problem

I don’t have this single goal, so no driving force to become a monomaniac. ‘You have to fight for your dream’, but do you have to do when you have 27 dreams? I want to be good in multiple domains, all at the same time: I want to learn how to write (and eventually write) compelling, moving stories, I want to to improve my programming skills and contribute in useful projects, I want to find a interesting job preferable in R&D (and excel in it, but that is an other problem), improving the world a little bit, I want to keep a certain level of fitness (I’m currently failing very hard, but don’t tell anyone), I want to learn to cook delicious meals, I want to read the best books, I want to be loved and have lots of friends. Ow yeah, I also want to waste time by doing nothing, watch shows and movies.

Another problem is my nature: I have difficulties to start working on something, if I do not see a satisfying final product within the (not too distant) future. This also happens when I have too much to do: too much stress results in wasting time. This creates of course more stress

All lists have at least three items, so here is the third: procrastination! It is a hobby of mine. I do it whenever I can. Especially for administrative things I REALLY have to do. Linked with my stress paralysis, this doesn’t help. I even postpone the simplest of tasks, resulting in long to-do lists.

Now that we are on a role, a fourth item: easily demotivated. I want to be proud of my work. I’m not extremely smart or skilled, which is a problem if you want your work to be perfect before you show it so someone. Often I lose interest before the task is finished or I get lost in details. Resulting in me wasting time on non-essential details, causing frustration: ‘I worked for x hours on project y and only got this “far”!!’ so I don’t show it to anyone. and everyone thins I didn’t do anything.


I could try to put aside all my goals, except one. But who wants to live without making love and friends a goal? On the other hand, you can not live on love alone. So, let say I would select one goal, combined with love and friends. The obvious choice for my single goal would be work related. If you have to do something for around 8 hours a day and it provides money for your existence, why not make it your number one priority?

Immediately, a problem arises. I don’t have a clear idea of what exactly I would want to do for the rest of my life. In one month, I have my doctoral degree in engineering sciences. And honestly, I have no idea what the future will bring. I hope I can land a job withing my domain of my current hobbies and interests, but I’m also wanting to learn some new skills and dive into a new subjects.

Can I even become so focused? Focus is not my strongest characteristic… (sadly). According to recent studies you become more productive if you work in shorter bursts and limit your time at work. During some months, I was in my office for often more than 12 hours a day. I have to admit, productive was not a word you could use to describe me. But what I’m wondering, is how you should renewal your energy. I’m wondering if you have to stop doing intense tasks all together, or can you do another task, not related with work? If the latter is possible, I could work on multiple goals, without impeding my work. On the contrary, it should be beneficial! Should I then plan everything in detail? Taking control over every second of my day? Seems a bit impossible, because sometimes, squandering time can be so much fun! Personally, I learned some useful skills during these periods: most of my linux know-how for example. I’m not a linux professional, but I can perform some tasks in a fraction of the time my colleagues can.

A first step for me will be tracking my time in the office: this will motivate me and give a beter picture of how I work on a daily basis. We will see what the future brings!


4 thoughts on “Do I need to focus on a single goal?”

  1. Are you, me? I can totally relate to everything that you are writing about. It’s tough and I don’t have the answers either. I think the best thing to do is to find something that we are truly passionate about, and devote our energy into it. That idea or ‘thing’ might require a variety of skillsets, and it stops becoming what skill is it that you want to devote your energy into, and more of, what do i need to achieve this goal.

  2. TONY,
    I definitely clock along with you. The good thing is you’re asking questions. It’s okay not having ready answers. Keep asking those questions.

    R. Buckminster Fuller––since you’re an engineering sciences guy–said that mankind was moved forward most by the comprehensive thinkers amongst us. The mono-brained “specialists” made contributions but it was, he claims, those comprehensive thinkers who leap frog the most.

    Elon Musk uses his engineering mind to work in numerous divergent areas.

    Keep asking questions and be attentive to what resonates within you. Then ask more questions. Sounds like you’re doing great, just worry less and keep asking questions.

    1. Hey Jay Tob,
      I agree that the most progress is made by people with wide knowledge in a multitude of area’s. But I think there is a necessary condition: the knowledge in those area’s should at least reach a certain level. Here lies my problem: in all my area’s of interest, I have some capabilities, but not enough to stand out. If a company wants to get something done, they will find the right person for this single task. Not the person who will take much longer to solve the initial problem, but might also be able to help on another unrelated task.

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