All Types of Goals
One can focus on a simple thought or movement, or on changing the entire world; everyone is free to set the goal they aspire to achieve, whether it's achievable or not. Goals are defined by several factors, the same as those we use in physics: place, time, number, order, frequency, priority, possibility, effort, parts and participants who achieve those goals. It's all about how a mobile entity, we, at a source point can reach a target point, our goal.
One can focus on any of the following goal types:
1. Mental/Emotional/Physical Goals
A Mental Goal
The easiest type of goal is to focus on a word/mantra, that gradually leads to ideas, emotions and actions. Repeating one's goals can be a good mantra itself. If a goal is difficult to achieve, one can start with focusing on "thinking of it" only. Learning, talking and fantasizing about it can feed our thoughts. Gradually, visualizing a goal makes us indirectly interested in and prepared for it. Visualizing failure too, less frequently, keeps us vigilant and away from it. We shouldn't stop dreaming of our goals, even when they are difficult to achieve, for that's what hope is about. It all starts with a thought.
A thought is a simple/complex, voluntary/involuntary, verbal/nonverbal, conscious/unconscious brain activity, e.g. arguing/observing/fantasizing/reminiscing/memorizing ... taking place simultaneously or independently. We can control our unconscious or involuntary thoughts, by voluntary thoughts and actions.
Some thoughts take years before they materialize into actions; and some never lead to actions, permanently staying within the mind's confines, like incomplete or private thoughts. The thoughts we choose frequently (the mental goals we achieve) eventually become principles (as points form straight lines, mathematically speaking): they make the roadmap of life easier to follow, while driving towards other goals.
An Emotional Goal
Happiness is our main goal in life, that all other goals—emotions, thoughts and actions—should lead to. Happiness is just an emotion, an emotional goal to seek all life long. It is not a final goal; it's a constant one: every moment should be filled with pleasure. However, since we don't know how many moments we have to live, every moment may also include preparation for a later pleasure: a duty. Our emotional intelligence requires us to have short-term and long-term emotional goals, by neither living for the moment, nor missing the moment and letting it pass without enjoying it. (If death knocks at your door at any moment, you don't want to die while you are in pain, especially that dying itself is usually painful—unless you can choose your death.) Thus, we should respect all types of goals, and pleasures, temporary or permanent, physical or intellectual ... using every survival tool we have to "feel happy."
We focus on emotional goals to enjoy emotions, learn from them, or develop motivation for other goals. For example, feeling someone else's emotions can be enjoyable, enlightening, and useful, encouraging us to follow their footsteps.
We can't control emotions directly; rather, we control them by thoughts and actions. The time taken to reach an emotion, with focus, gradually becomes minimal. We can willfully provoke, anger, excite, cheer ... and, above all, enjoy ourselves, at our own will. It's an "emotionally smart" thing to control one's emotions, albeit indirectly, without losing simplicity, spontaneity, novelty, element of surprise ... and other ingredients of happiness.
Emotions lead to emotions. We can use easy/simple emotions to reach difficult/complex ones. The simplest emotions are love, hatred, and apathy (no emotion):
A Physical Goal
Some actions must be taken immediately, with no/minimal thinking, when there is no/minimal time to think. At moments requiring full alert and quick reaction, one should be prepared in advance with sufficient data and expectation of all scenarios, rather than think at such moments. Not only in serious situations, but also with simple pleasures and body functions we shouldn't think much, complicating the simple and sophisticating the natural.
There are situations requiring both body and mind focus, maximally. Crossing a street or driving at intersections, one should not do or think of anything else, keeping all senses on alert, with some muscular tension ready to apply instantly and flexibly. "Maximum flexibility" can be a good idea (rather a mantra, since there's no time for ideas) to have then, for focusing, to achieve full body-mind balance at such risky situations we have no choice about. However, it's better not to try focus and tempt fate: there is no need for risk-taking as long as there are alternatives, and mostly there are. (The front of a truck could be one of Grim Reaper's faces, and your last to see, and "Look out!" the last words you hear! Your "maximum focus, maximum focus, maximum focus ..." mantra won't help you then!)
Focus on an action requires change of body and mind state:
2. Passive/Active Goals
Passive goals are a great place for anyone to start having a goal. It's amazing how "doing nothing" can be so rewarding, like other goals, giving a sense of achievement and self-confidence too. We need to be passive in resisting temptation, curbing anger, concentration, relaxation, fasting, abstinence, stillness, silence, patience, etc. The very "boredom" passiveness causes is good as it forces us to try new active goals, for a change, if nothing else.
A passive goal requires focusing on not doing something, which is usually easier than doing it. Passive goals pave the way for active goals, simultaneously or in advance. Combining passiveness with focusing on new goals, "filling the gap" and replacing old goals, is good to keep us busy and safe from regressing to unwanted goals.
3. Sub-Goals/Main Goals
One can focus on a medium leading to a goal, rather than the goal itself, by following a set of steps or "sub-goals" to achieve, preceding the main goal. We focus on working to achieve a goal, notwithstanding the result:
This is what we always need for faraway or uncertain goals. Too much tension/worries/suspense/excitement about a future target slows down, if not completely halts, our movement towards it. Swiftness and tension/stiffness/heaviness don't go together. Rather, en route to our main goal, we can simultaneously enjoy other simple temporary available goals, just enough to ease our minds and lighten and speed up our pace.
Sub-goals lead to main goals automatically, even unconsciously (like a long road you enjoyed traveling without noticing the time and effort it took, when you were suddenly and happily awakened at the sight of your destination). Sub-goals gradually ease the tension/fear/doubt about achieving a goal, because we are naturally addicted to patterns: once we achieve a small goal, then another, and another ... we reach the end, merely by enjoying the process/game of "completing a pattern."
4. Short/Long Goals
Some goals require long work before and after we achieve them, while others are only temporary stops to move from to other goals. Long goals can be sought all life long, like health, security, happiness ..., or for a long period of time, like maintaining a job, a contact, a property ... Short goals can be an exam to pass, a person/place to visit, a speech to give, a deadline to meet, etc.
Although short goals take short time, they can be stressful. The best way to avoid such stress is to spend enough time preparing for them. If we can't prepare for them, we have no choice but to face such goals while we are either very "tense, apathetic or happy" in order to achieve them.
Examples of long & short goals:
5. Negative/Positive Goals
It's impossible to move in two opposite directions at the same instant. Instead, we can develop enough flexibility to shift quickly between opposite goals, seemingly sustaining both simultaneously. The best example of negative and positive goals is the "fight or flight" survival strategy used by animals. We have to move between extremes sometimes, almost instantly: insisting and giving up, calmness and anger, wishes and facts, retreat and attack, etc.
When positive and negative goals are not handled efficiently, we miss both:
Modern life has more contradictions that force modern humans to handle opposite goals, that their ancestors couldn't have handled. Thanks to relativity, we know there are no absolutes we can grasp: nothing is fully black or fully white. Instead, we try to understand the many shades, nuances, and contradictions in our nature, then use them to our advantage. We know that pain is a degree of pleasure, evil is a degree of good, yang is a degree of yin, etc. It all depends on the context.
6. Temporal/Spatial Goals
All goals in life are limited by time and space, because life itself is limited. However, they have different ranges that we can move freely within. Since life is a present we live and a future we might live, we need goals for every stage of life; and because the world is larger than us, we need to keep moving, exploring and benefiting from the world to complete our needs that staying still can't satisfy alone.
Time-specific and place-specific goals require:
7. Personal/Social Goals
A hermit and a king seemingly stand at the opposite ends of the personal-social scale, although both introverts and extroverts share the main goals in life, and both society needs. However, each uses different tools to achieve their respective goals: personal goals require more reflection and autonomy, while social goals require more empathy and sociability.
There is no difference between personal and social goals; only individuals are different. You cannot move (influence) someone without you moving too; you wouldn't help someone without helping yourself too, at least emotionally. If you decide to lead a group, help others, or even die for others, your goal is still quite personal.
Social goals are better achieved when their equivalent personal ones are achieved first. It's always good to "start with yourself": understanding, loving, helping and enjoying yourself first. Seeking control over strangers for pleasure's sake, without mastering self-control first, is dangerous.
Personal goals seem difficult because of the initial familiarity/boredom we feel with ourselves, that keeps us from knowing and enjoying ourselves properly. Rather, one should wait, to go beyond that initial feeling and discover one's "self" alone more, which is more mysterious and enjoyable than they think. Then one may seek social goals afterwards, only to complement their personal ones. This is better than turning other people into mere puppets to control, a game for diversion, a sounding board to echo one's thoughts, or a mirror to see oneself in.
8. Single/Multiple Goals
Having few goals is better than having no goals at all, the latter being a waste of one's life and a distraction to other people's. We must make choices between the different goals, by sound healthy reasoning, because the more goals we have, the more they become confusing to handle. Having many goals requires extra mental power to handle the different challenges; they can be:
9. Certain/Possible/Impossible Goals
We shouldn't take risk unless we have no choice: we shouldn't follow unknown goals with unknown mediums when we have known ones. Having few achievable goals is better than having many unachievable goals.
10. Achieved/Aspired Goals
Goals we have achieved before usually need less tension and time to achieve again, than goals we haven't achieved yet. On the other hand, goals we haven't achieved usually have more value and curiosity.
11. Old/New Goals
Goals get old whether we achieve them or not. We change our minds sometimes, and accordingly direction and destination too. It's not a shame to do this—we live and learn. However, to save time, we'd better learn what we want in advance before we set out to pursue a goal. Life is too short to keep fooling around and getting lost on its roads, let alone having accidents.
12. Easy/Difficult Goals
An easy goal has the easy choice in any of the above goal types: