We can think about some goals more clearly when we realize they’re more like directions than destinations.

Health is like this: I don’t reach a point where I’m done being healthy, or getting healthier. It’s an ongoing process in a complex and changing system. I might decide to start exercising three times a week. If I do that for six months, will I be healthy?

Maybe healthier. But never sufficiently healthy that I can simply stop thinking about my health. Never “done”.

Exercising three times a week for six months? That’s a destination. But it’s a destination in the service of the greater goal of heading in a direction. After those six months, I reevaluate: I’ve tried doing thing x to head in the general direction of better health. Now I ask myself some questions: Am I as healthy as I want to be now? Am I doing enough? Could I do less? Could I do more? What if I stop entirely? Should I try something different, like exercising differently, or eating better?

This is course correction with a moving target. It doesn’t have to happen every six months. It can happen much more frequently. And that’s good, because not only does my health change as time passes, but my opinion about what “healthy” looks like also changes. And that’s not a thing I can really control. So I might want to take a hard right turn tomorrow based on some new information.

Enough about health. This direction/destination idea isn’t exclusive to health. This is a useful and interesting pattern that also exists elsewhere.

Personally, there are other general things I work toward that fit this pattern: better relationships, better parenting, more productivity, better financial security, spending my time in more pleasurable and fulfilling ways.

Beyond personally, into the professional realm: High software quality is a direction and not a destination. A good team is, too — it’s something that changes over time, so it’ll never be done and can constantly be evaluated with an eye toward improvement along whatever vectors you decide. You might think of a meritocratic organization as something you continually strive for, too. Or a diverse organization. Even being a profitable organization is a moving target.

Beyond professionally, into the realm of government and society: Both liberty and social equality are fundamentally direction-based, not destinations that’ll ever be reached. (In the US, at least, we seem to be involved in a constant negotiation among groups with different ideas about which of those directions is more important (among other things). That negotiation itself looks like course correction with a moving target.)

We do our best, we learn, we try to get better. Don’t let your destination-goals lead you to lose sight of the direction-goals they’re meant to serve.