“A novelist must know what his last chapter is going to say and one way or another work toward that last chapter” (Leon Uris).
IN WRITING, THE FIRST THING AN AUTHOR DECIDES IS WHAT TO PUT LAST. Once he knows the definite point that he is aiming for, he can figure out how to hit that target. But without a target, his writing is going to be “aimless” in the very worst sense of the term.
But if aimless writing is bad, aimless living is worse. Little good comes from wandering through life with no particular point in mind that we are trying to get to. As Epictetus said, “First say to yourself what you would be, and then do what you have to do.” The various activities in which we engage from day to day ought to be means that we have decided upon to accomplish our intended aim.
Living without an aim is actually dangerous. Great damage can be done to ourselves and others by following the Ready! Fire! Aim! philosophy. Simply rearranging the order to Ready! Aim! Fire! is one of the best precautions we can take as we make our way through life.
There is another danger, however, and that is the danger of losing sight of our aim in the midst of making our effort. Even when we have carefully decided what goals and aspirations are worth working toward, we may become so obsessed with the “what” of our work that we lose our grip on the “why.” This is dangerous because it leads to blind, uncritical zealotry. “Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim” (George Santayana).
But the word “aim” can mean not only the target toward which one’s efforts are directed; it can also mean skill in hitting the target. A person with “good aim,” then, has two characteristics: (1) he has a good target in mind, and (2) he is good at hitting the target. The second of these characteristics is where many of us fail to take personal responsibility. We blame our “poor aim” on everything and everybody except ourselves. But we can do better than that. So today, let’s evaluate the worthiness of our aim (or goal) in life — and then let’s work on improving whatever skills we need to hit the mark.
“When an archer misses the mark, he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bull’s-eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim, improve yourself” (Gilbert Arland).