Friday, July 10, 2009

Is it possible?

I have always wanted to touch a basketball rim but unfortunately I am very short. I used to be able to jump very high, but not high enough. That's what is called an unattainable goal. No matter how badly I wanted it, physics and biology have already decided it's not going to happen.

Politicians like to think their decree is enough to get something done. A stated goal like universal health insurance, peace on earth, or an end to poverty as we know it sounds nice. It may not be possible and we ought to consider that possibility before setting an unattainable goal.


namacuix said...

I don't think I entirely agree with this assessment. I personally think that it's good to set exaggerated, lofty goals because it's true that the goal you're seeking is a large percentage of the time unattainable. However, where you'll eventually end up would be so much closer had there been nothing to strive towards.

- sheldon
For some, the moon-landing edict might have been an unattainable goal but it was achieved. Maybe it's possible to develop a shoe with enough spring to get you to touch the basketball rim. I just think that not setting a goal, no matter how unattainable, is tantamount to doing nothing which impedes progress.

Adam Freund said...

I agree that setting high goals (really any goal) is beneficial. There is a point where a goal can be counter productive which is when it is so obliviously unattainable that it acts as a discouragement versus encouragement. The point I was trying to make was not in reference to goals as a motivational tool but as a measurement of success.

Measuring success as the attainment of some impossible goal can lead to bad things in my opinion. For instance, claiming that I am a failure for not touching the rim versus being happy for getting so close.

Phillip said...

The possibility of a goal is important because it informs the entire process of trying to acheive it. Goals that cannot be clearly defined (a success metric) cannot be achieved and can create huge problems.

Light speed is an excellent example -- no matter how much you wish you travel faster than light -- it cannot be done (with our current understanding of physics, which I believe can account for possible anomalies, but that is conjecture). Thus we best not waste our time and resources trying go faster than light outright.

The War on Drugs or War on Terror are also good examples. We will never eradicate the drug trade or terrorism. How do we let that inform our decision making as related to personal liberty?

Also, Adam, try doing lots of Olympic lifts. Before my spinal injury I could almost fly.

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