Football, as the cliché has it, is a funny old game. I'm not exactly sure what that means, nor what exactly is funny about it, either in mirth or in peculiarity.
As a metaphor for achievement, however, it does score highly, because it is about winning, being the best that you can be and ensuring that all the team's assets are used in the most productive fashion, co-ordinated by the manager. Trainers train the players to be the fittest they can be, that their ball-handling dexterity is honed to as near perfection as they can manage. Medical staff – physiotherapists, psychologists and, of course, doctors, are on hand to make sure the players are sound in mind and body and, of course, the manager is there to be as good a father figure to the whole enterprise as possible. He will encourage, cajole, occasionally threaten but mostly inspire. He will study the opposing team, if he is any good, and from there create tactics for the game to come and strategy for the remaining fixtures and the future of the club, based on the talents of the players and those who can be coaxed into the team.
Similarly, a person who aspires to do anything worthwhile with his life should, without exception, have goals. Just as no football team will ever find themselves at the head of the Championship League by wandering onto the pitch and sauntering around casually, kicking the ball as they find it, a person cannot expect to become wealthy by drifting aimlessly. Of course, circumstances may transpire that may push a person unthinkingly towards some sort of success, just as the ocean currents may push a boat into a harbour but, as with life, for every harbour there are hundreds of miles of shoreline.
No, goals are vital and, as a skill, goal-setting is as fundamental as learning the native language. And yet few educational establishments – and still fewer parents – stress its importance, or teach it to their charges.
I think, possibly – at least in the case of educational establishments – this may be because the role of many such establishments, according to a teacher of my acquaintance, is to prepare students to become subordinate to the world of work, where goals are set by the management and any maverick thinking might upset the apple-cart. As a philosophy, however, this is so last century, based upon the old ideal whereby a person might be expected to have a job for life, whether he likes what he does or, probably, not, and the job he or she had was suffered for the express purposes of enabling his other pursuits.
For parents, they would more likely be ignorant of setting goals, because their parents wouldn't have set goals and so on. This is the old game of, as Earl Nightingale put it, “follow the follower”, whereby a one's actions are modelled on the habits of those who have gone before, and those of people whose crowd one wishes to join.
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