How Not Fixing The Right Goal Will Make You Give Up

As many may have understood in my previous articles, I started on a self-improvement path last Summer. After some research and in order to do this properly, I found myself some long-term goals that fitted with what I loved or thought I would come to love in the long run.

Among those tasks, learning how to code was an important part to reach certain goals, while also allowing me to make use of my love to learn new languages.

Indeed, there are an innumerable amount of polyglots who are able to program in different coding languages and it is often said that the reason behind this is the similarities between a spoken language and a programming language.

After trying it out for quite a few months, I was hooked. I enjoyed every second of it, apart from the frustrating times during which I could not solve a problem I would find myself in front of. Yet, solving those problems, on the contrary, gave me an incommensurable satisfaction each time.

I took a 10-week long intensive course during which I create 6–7 full web pages of more and more complexity from scratch. This was a great experience and gave me solid foundations in HTML, CSS and some in JavaScript.

I thought that was it. I had found a new passion. Creating a web-page out of lines of code. It felt like a conversation in which I was say something by typing the code, and the internet would put it together to understand it and show it the way I wanted.

But then, when my class finished at the end of summer, I ended up in front of a valley in which I could see infinite paths leading to different skills and opportunities. I had reached the level where I knew I wasn’t a beginner anymore but didn’t realize fully how much I still had to go.

I kept on trying to give it a go, but after a few months of hurdle, I decided to reevaluate my long term goals related to coding in January.

Why did I want to learn how to code? What was I looking for in coding?

And that’s when I saw that I had made the one mistake that I had been telling people around me not to do: choosing something because it was “a good thing to do”, because it was “useful”. I’m just human after all.

Indeed, what I was going for was to, one day (first problem: not a fixed date), I would make my own website (second problem: solving a problem I don’t actually have in itself) and potentially within 2 years start teaching basics to others, maybe through an online class in order to make some extra money.

That last bit was what made me start an actual break from coding about a month ago. I’ve been learning languages for more than 10 years and a by-product of this is that it has open doors to more opportunities and thus some money (extra or main). The reason I started learning languages was my attraction for the sound of it and the culture attached to it.

Fixing the ultimate goal as “making money” was the main mistake there. Money is not a goal. Money doesn’t “make the world go round”. It simply allows some people’s life to be easier in some sort.

Long-term goals are crucial to living a fulfilled and happy life. But how long should we think? Thinking the “interview way” of 2, 5 or even 10 years ahead is important but not critical.

Think big, as we say. Look for what you want to accomplish in your entire life and build backwards from there. This goes even further than just being goals. This constitutes the base for your entire life.

For instance, with my languages, I plan to have an impact on the language community and make it more accessible for those who are not passionate per se with languages.

I can then work backwards. In order to reach this, I need to help others. To be able to help, I need to find what the problems are so I can verify I can be of help. Most people see studying as an action to do alone but languages are made to exchange. And so on and so on, thinking more in details as we go.

It is also critical to realize that we need society in order to keep the motivation. There is nothing in this world that gives us unlimited motivation. We will, at one point, need to find others that have similar goals or skills to see what there is further down the road and stay appreciative of the journey.

For coding, thinking of its goals as something for myself only and money as well has made me realize that the motivation was doomed to disappear. The way I fixed this goal was simply wrong and thus made it impossible in the long run.

However, as Stephen Covey explains in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it is critical to reevaluate your goals and personal mission regularly as you evolved yourself. Our personalities, habits and surroundings change pretty much on a daily basis and this can cause, in the long run, a change in our goals or in what keeps the motivation high.

In my case, this allowed me to notice last month that my goals for coding didn’t fit my personal goals per se, and that is why this has been the first habit to be pushed aside daily. I still enjoy coding and its pleasure related to fixing a problem so I want to make it fit into my long term goals. But do I need to make myself become incredible at it? No. Do I need to make money out of it? No. I just need to make it pleasant so that it makes me want to code on a daily basis, even if not 5 minutes.

The important thing is to be clear about what we want and why we want it. This, and this alone, can contribute to making us keeping a habit for a long time.



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Mathias Barra

Mathias Barra


French polyglot speaking 6 languages. Writer. Helping you learn languages. Get my new ebook →