News flash


Knowing Our

October 7 or
October 8

September 17-23

The Necessity of Long-Range Goals [1]

by Harvey Jackins

One delightful aspect of reality is that the future can never be predicted precisely, that it will always contain surprises. Our fears have longed for complete predictability, but this is only our fears. Boredom is a far worse fate than terror, and boredom would be our lot if the future were completely predictable.

This ultimate unpredictability of future reality is not due just to our lack of knowledge. Even if we could ever attain complete information about present reality, the future would go on being surprising.


This fits our essential nature well. We evolved in our dynamic universe, and we represent a sophisticated, highly-developed aspect of its dynamism. Our fears and hurt patterns may long for stasis, but our real human nature likes to swim in strong currents, harness moving forces, likes to feel challenged by fresh complexities.

We meet the challenging, on-rushing future with flexible, rational human intelligence. We calculate and re-calculate continually what the probable nature of future reality will be and plan accordingly. Only this type of flexible forecasting enables us to stay in charge of the environment and take advantage of the surprises as they appear.


For all of us (so far) an auxiliary chore must be faced and handled. None of our intelligences are as yet free from the inhibiting, interfering effects of distress patterns which past experiences of hurt have left upon us. We must struggle against the effects of these upon our intelligence, and struggle to free our intelligence from them, at the same time that our intelligence is having to cope with reality and anticipate the on-rushing future.

It is as though zestful, enthusiastic swimmers joyfully mastering the current of the exciting stream must also at the same time compensate for the effects of, and try to free themselves from, concrete boots which were cast about their feet during past periods of helplessness.

In doing these jobs well, an aware, thought-out system of goals is very helpful.


Another nice thing about the reality of being a human being is our ability to be aware (and even to be aware of being aware).

I can’t specify exactly what awareness for a human being is. In a logical scheme I would have to call it one of the undefined terms. (You either know what I mean when I say “awareness” or you don’t.) However, people usually have some sense of the difference between being aware and not being aware. Nearly everyone cherishes experiences of being unusually aware, of being pulled to awareness by the thrill of a beautiful morning, of a new experience, or of clear communication and understanding with another person.

Awareness is not the same as rational intelligence, because a great deal of rational thinking (defined as the creating of a new, accurate response to each new experience) takes place below awareness. We use the aware levels of our rational thinking for high priority questions only. We tend to shut down on these levels if interesting, demanding, new-information situations are not forthcoming with some regularity.

Perhaps awareness consists, at least in part, of being able to view and think about the processes of rational thinking while these processes are taking place. In this way awareness or aware thinking would be analogous to a meta-system, a framework larger than rational thinking in which rational thinking is embedded and from whose larger viewpoint we can understand and decide questions which would be un-understandable and un-decidable if we were to stay within the confines of rational thinking itself.


We expend a great deal of effort in our Co-Counseling to free our attention from involvement with distress recordings of the past and to allow it to function in “present time.” Yet when we are functioning free of restimulated involvement with distresses of the past, we naturally and intuitively take the past into account in our understanding of the present and project our desires and anticipations onto the mental screen of the future. We take many present actions with the aim of helping our projected future hopes to come about.

Similarly, a good part of our progress in our own counseling is to “find ourselves” as individuals, distinct from the pressures and identifications which society and distresses have foisted upon us. We discharge and re-evaluate to free ourselves from the “shoulds” and “have to’s,” to think for ourselves, from ourselves, and of ourselves as trustworthy and sovereign individuals.


Yet when we attain a measure of such independent intelligence, when we have been able to think of ourselves as individuals distinct from all others with our own goals and purposes, then we spontaneously tend to also think of ourselves as a group with other human beings. We become able to link our survival potential, mentally, with that of our families, our groups, our species, and our environment and universe in a meaningful way, free from identifications and distress.


In a sense, all those who seek to discharge and re-evaluate themselves free from their distress patterns are starting out in the middle of a great tangle of patterns with not much perspective on their positions or where they are going. The extreme difficulty of this position has been somewhat mitigated as the years have gone by, by the accumulating experiences of others. Beginners at the process of discharge and re-evaluation can now be guided to a considerable extent by what other people have done. This is the role of Re-evaluation Counseling theory, to summarize these experiences of others to afford perspective for oneself.

Even so, in the beginning of Co-Counseling it is as if one is trying to fight one’s way out of a surrounding tangle. One is not sure in which direction to go. Fortunately it has turned out that any anti-pattern activity tends to bring discharge. Though the discharge may be random for some time, it affords occasional glimpses of the real nature of people and their real relations to the world. These glimpses expedite progress and allow the beginning of purposeful directions.

With a direction, one’s counseling progresses. Even though random discharge of painful emotion should eventually and theoretically get rid of all the accumulated distress which people carry, the enormous amount of hurt experiences which they have lived through makes random progress a slow business in practice. It is much more profitable and efficient to discharge material with some direction rather than do it blindly. Thus, very early in one’s progress toward rationality, one begins spontaneously to set goals, to plan on definite achievements through counseling.


Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” From my own esteem for life I would stop far short of such a harsh judgment. To me it is a tremendous boon to be alive at all, and to be alive and intelligent is one of the luckiest occurrences that could ever befall. To be alive for only a moment, even though it were in agony, is infinitely preferable to never having been alive at all.

Yet Socrates was trying to emphasize something important. To live in the best way, to really be intelligent in the highest sense, is to be aware of what is going on, to take charge of the situation, to have ideas of what kind of future we want and to take steps to bring it about.


This means having goals. This means having aware goals, cIear-cut goals, spelled-out and specified goals for every area of our influence and interest, and for every epoch of the future.

It is best that these goals be flexible, subject to change by intelligent decision but persisted in against all fears and discouragements. It is best that they not be obsessive or compulsive but act instead like magnets or compasses, helping to coordinate and organize our thinking and action.


Happiness has been well-defined as “overcoming of obstacles on the way to a goal of one’s own choosing. The rewards of having such goals are likely to be immediate. Such rewards need not be postponed until the attainment of the goals.

For rational functioning one needs goals in each of several concentric areas. One needs goals for oneself. One needs goals for one’s family, for one’s groups, for the community in which one lives. One needs goals for humankind as a whole, for our entire species. One needs goals for the entire world of living things. Finally, one needs goals for the universe.


For reasons that can be traced historically, there is great pressure in our current culture to put the emphasis on selfishness, to constrict our interest and concern to spheres close to ourselves. “Look after yourself, don’t mind the other fellow.” We are told, “It’s dog eat dog and devil take the hindmost.” The present general culture encourages one to be preoccupied with one’s own survival or at most the survival of one’s family. This flows out of the historical fragmentation of society. It has its roots in feudalism, in slavery, in the desperate conditions of unplanned living.

Such short-sightedness doesn’t work, of course. When through painful emotion one accepts limitations on one’s interest in the survival of others, then one is in trouble. When one buys the notion, “I’ve got to look after my family, and the government knows what it is doing in Vietnam,” then very quickly one is likely to find members of one’s family drafted to die in a Vietnam war which sufficient interest and initiative on our part would have prevented.

Less common but still familiar are “save the world” recordings that produce obsessive activity on behalf of humankind to the neglect of oneself and one’s family. Such recordings make one ineffective on all levels. Those who neglect self and family are not effective in their exhortations to their fellow humans for support on the larger causes. The individual who is a poor parent to his or her family weakens the effectiveness of his or her appeal on behalf of an endangered species or for rescuing of the atmosphere from pollution.

One needs goals on all levels at once. It is true that we are not able to do much about the Andromeda Galaxy right now, but it is also true that we will do better toward our immediate goals if we are aware that the Andromeda Galaxy is there, if we have an enlightened, rational attitude toward it and toward the rest of the universe.


In times of social crisis and collapse, such as the present, it is important for the welfare of the individual, family, and group that the great social situation be taken into account. One’s individual survival requires that one throw one’s weight on behalf of the emerging, healthy forces of society and against the familiar and imposing but destructive and dead forces of a collapsing society.

One needs to have clear goals in all spheres at once, then allocate one’s resources sensibly to work toward each of the goals in a balanced, rational way.


As with space, so with time. We need goals for the immediate future, of course. We also need goals for each period of the future. We need to have clear-cut plans that we wish to accomplish today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year, this decade, throughout the whole of our influence and functioning. (I refrain from saying during one’s lifetime since it seems healthier not to regard death as inevitable.)


One can have the loftiest, long-range goals; but unless one has immediate goals, the long-range ones are likely to remain daydreams while the precious minutes of present time tick by unused. Lao Tze said that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. Having set a lofty, long-range goal, one needs to calculate back from that goal to the steps it will take to accomplish it, including what needs to be done this very day.

Similarly, to set immediate goals only without long-range ones is to misuse one’s human capacity to really think and master the environment. Lack of long-range goals is quite likely to frustrate the achieving of even the immediate ones.

In counseling clients I notice over and over again that if one sets up an immediate goal of, for example, overcoming shyness by greeting and having a social chat with a person of the opposite sex, s/he will work on this goal only and will discharge much fear and embarrassment but will be a very long time in actually taking the step. If, however, in addition to setting the immediate goal of the social conversation, s/he also sets a long-range goal of having and raising a fine family, then this long-range goal places greater urgency on the shorter-range goal of a loving, dating relationship with a member of the opposite sex. If attention is directed to the long-range goal of raising a fine family, then the step of meeting and greeting a series of potential spouses tends to be taken quickly in spite of the embarrassment, with no diminution of discharge but much more activity toward the effective living of one’s life.

One needs a well-rounded set of goals, complete in the immediate future and in the longest range of time. One requires goals for one’s own individual needs and for every layer of one’s groups and associations out to the farthest reaches of the universe. These goals belong in writing on the wall, written on the shaving mirror in soap, pledged publicly to one’s counseling group, written in the charts of one’s community class manual, publicly admitted to.


One needs aids in remembering what goals one is working towards and what steps need to be taken. A goal chart such as you will find on the following page will be helpful.

The struggle will be to keep these goals in awareness against the forgetting effect of the patterns. The only defense that a pattern has to prevent itself from being discharged and overcome, once it is accurately spotted and a direction taken against it, is its ability to make you forget the direction. To write directions down, to create charts, to set up devices for reminding oneself of them continually is essential to win through to full humanness.


My goals for today, for example, are to finish the rough draft of this pamphlet and to have it typed, to complete the roster and arrangements for the weekend workshop which I intend to lead this week, to take my laundry to the cleaners, to call five good friends and co-workers on the telephone about important matters, to give a session to a co-worker who has been out of town, to visit with and be encouraging to my youngest son, and to stay informed about the world. My goals for this week are to conclude a successful workshop on the weekend, to help get a counseling module in workable condition so that people can use it, to confer with attorneys about setting up a foundation, to work on getting the family yard and garden ready for spring, to have dinner with my oldest son, to chair a productive staff meeting, and to discharge for (hopefully) about four hours.

My goals for this month are to get the remodeling of a building well on the way, to conduct an open question meeting in San Francisco and a week’s workshop in Santa Barbara, to get at least one, hopefully two, pamphlets besides this one to the printer, to have a tooth filled, to keep my weight down, and to have a good conference with my cardiologist, as well as to spend an evening on the phone with my daughter and my second son.

My goals for the year are to move into and work effectively in a new building, to set up a dozen new Area Reference structures in new parts of the world, to become closer and in better communication with all of my family, to train fifty new teachers of Re-evaluation Counseling, and to emerge from an ancient feeling of not being liked to the point that I not only know logically that I am liked but feel liked all of the time.

My longest-range goals include the ending of the phenomenon of distress patterns among human beings. They include the turning of the earth into a lovely garden with the surface of the earth as a province of all living things in which we are careful guests, where our dwellings and transportation are underground, where the clean waters, lakes and streams are again full of healthy fish, where whales proliferate once more upon the oceans, and where clear blue skies and quiet, restful atmospheres make the earth a lovely place for the five or ten billion warm, loving people who inhabit it in zestful cooperation. I have a goal of all members of my family becoming dependably happy, zestful, and rational at all times and for all members of the Co-Counseling Community moving in the same direction and in the process including all the residents of the earth.


These are my goals. What are yours?

[click here] for Goals Sheet

[1]  First published in 1972 as a pamphlet


A foot or horseback, rocketing or rowing,

It helps to give some thought to where

      we’re going.

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00