December 29, 2021 —New Year’s Edition

goalset

This is the first Mimetic Monday edition that isn’t coming on a Monday. My apologies—I’m scapegoating Christmas for the delay. It took me longer than I thought to unwind from the holiday revelries; by the time I knew it, it was Tuesday. So here is Mimetic Monday, on a Wednesday. New Year’s Edition. May the best of 2021 be the worst of your 2022.

The Mimetic

“Goal-setting.” Goals, in the words of Bob Dylan, are blowin’ in the wind. It seems that the entire goal-setting industry and complex is reliant on unrestrained mimesis: people adopting other people’s goals as their own, and a willingness to pay big money to achieve them. I’ll never forget the night I went to a Comedy Club in NYC. The comedian introduced himself by sharing that he was thirty-five: “the age when apparently everyone starts running marathons.” He was lamenting the mimetic power of people’s solutions to mid-life crises. (“Every time I see them running a marathon, I wonder: what are they running from?” he continued. “I just got back from running my first one.”) It was funny at the time, at least. But it was also somewhat jarring to that 25-year-old version of me, trapped in the throes of mimetic desire as a young entrepreneur. I’ve reflected a lot on goal-setting ever since. So here is an adapted except from my book, Wanting, about the mimetic nature nature of goal-setting. I believe this aspect of goal-setting is important to think about as we head into 2022. I wanted to write about something that seems to get overlooked in all the New Year’s chatter about about goals—namely, how and why we choose them in the first place.

The Anti-Mimetic

Here is a list of 25 Anti-Mimetic Ideas for 2022. The one that has garnered the most reactions so far is the last: discover and live out your personal vocation in the world. The mimetic forces pushing and pulling us in a thousands different directions have a lot less power over us when we know what it is that we have to do. A vocation, a mission, is like a winnowing fan. Why did I make this the #1 Anti-Mimetic idea? Because it has been the case in my own life. I have a clearer sense of what contribution I am meant to make in the world than I’ve ever had, and it helps me decide on what to say no to and what to say to, and where to direct my time and energy. Or it could be just be that I made it #1 because we’re in the middle of marathon-watching The Lord of the Rings.

Quote of the Week

“What do you fear, lady?” [Aragorn] asked.
“A cage,” [Éowyn] said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

-LOTR

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