Objectives often come with the promise of guiding us toward a desired outcome. However, many objectives are deceptive paradoxically leading us further away from achieving an objective while making it seem like we are getting closer.

They mislead us by suggesting a linear path to achievement.

This is especially true for objectives involving

  • discovery,
  • creativity,
  • invention,
  • or innovation.

This deception arises because the most transformative innovations and discoveries frequently occur through indirect routes, unforeseen connections, or serendipitous encounters, rather than through the direct pursuit of a predefined goal.

Think of a Chinese Finger Trap where as one pulls their fingers out of the trap, the trap closes in locking the fingers in place. To achieve the objective of freedom from the trap, we may define a metric: proximity of our fingers. If our fingers are moving further apart, we are closer to achieving freedom. If they are moving together, we are becoming less free.

However, to actually achieve freedom from the trap, one must paradoxically move toward becoming less free (drawing the fingers inward) in order to loosen the trap so that the fingers can then be withdrawn.

This simple puzzle serves as a metaphor for the deception that lies at the heart of grand objectives throughout our society.

Source: Why Greatness Cannot Be Planned