Are Your Goals Making You Unhappy and Blind?
Goals are the holiest of holy in the personal development movement. They are bestowed as the elixir to all that ails and prescribed as the transformative medicine you seek. But can you relate to any of the following emotions as someone about to add to a never-ending list of To Dos?
- Do you feel a growing sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction on your journey that was supposed to make everything right?
- Do you desperately wish to escape to there from here?
- Does the feeling persist that someone or something is always moving your goal post to inevitable fulfillment?
How is it that goals can engender such undesirable outcomes? Today, let’s boldly grab hold of the third rail by putting our goals on the witness stand in the court of life and rendering judgment.
How Wide is the Chasm?
Goals are formulated with an eye toward the future. They are prescribed to help shift you from where you are to where you want to be, and in this respect they are invaluable.
The problem arises when you allow the journey to your best version of self to color the present moment as a mere obstacle to a destination.
The trap is sprung whenever you unconsciously make a deal to exists rather than truly live. Indeed, the promise of a future expressed in daily affirmations, incantations, and vision boards can be all too alluring a prospect.
The pain of “where you are” in contrast to “where you ought to be” is the trigger mechanism. It is not unusual to find yourself replaying a daily story that goes like this:
I hate where I’m right now, but all will be better and right when I finally get there.
This thought births a plan, and a plan needs a goal. So, you set your 90-day intention, schedule time on your calendar for your One Thing, and remember your future with daily drills.
All goes surprisingly well in the beginning, and this act is the universe playing a game with you, dangling some honey to draw you in. Progress comes quickly in the form of the first five pounds for those seeking a better body image, or simply a more disciplined and focused you as your mindset embraces a new embodiment.
However, a point soon arrives when the gains start to diminish, and your results cease to stay on track with your efforts. It is at these times that one has a peculiar feeling that someone or something is moving the goal post.
“What am I doing wrong? Look at the others who are getting what they seek by comparison. What do they have that I don’t?” Questions of identity and resources hack your progress, build doubt and create unhappiness. What is worse is that you have a clear vision of your future, but the path to get there now seems unattainable. This realization is the price of clarity, and the pain beckons a call to the ignorance of yesterday before your commitment to the journey.
There is no spoon!
I spoke of escaping your past in a prior article. Eckart Tolle states that living for the future only makes sense for those who can embrace the present. Thoughts of past regrets and future concerns abound in those who rise each day only to be reminded of the far away distance yet to be traveled.
Truth be told, there is no destination to be reached. This mistaken belief is the fallacy of how we model life as a journey. No completion of a goal will ever improve your life. Please, pause and re-read this last sentence especially if you are the type-A that believes you must battle life into submission.
Nothing that you do will add to you, and nothing that you do will subtract from you. — Jim Carey
There is your life and your life situation as professed by Eckart Tolle in the Power of Now. “Ah, but what is the difference you ask?”
Let’s look at how you got here. I like to say that you were you before I. There is a higher part of you which emerged from existence unbounded and pure. After all, what goal did you set to create yourself? Or, as the late, great Alan Watts asks us, what action plan did you execute to grow the most precious gems that are your eyes with which you look out onto the world?
So, with this context how can any 90-day goal quite possibly improve you? Now, it is undeniable that we are here for a time in this “apparent” separate form that we called “I.” I made use of the word adjective because distinct forms are yet another illusion or fallacy in this model we have of our existence.
The time between birth and death is where you play, not work. This period is where you improve your life situation with goals by playing the game of existence with the universe.
The awareness of a distinct life and life situation frees you from the thought that the present is merely an impediment, something to be endured on your way to a better you. It also releases you from the trap of living in your past with an identity set in place by your limiting beliefs.
The Sweet Spot
You know there had to be one right? How do we reconcile the need to stay in the present with our desire to improve via goals? The best way I have heard it expressed to date was by Vishen Lakhiani, co-founder of MindValley, who stated:
Flow is happiness in the now coupled with grand visions for the future. — Vishen Lakhiani
Flow in this regard does not mean optimum human performance as popularized by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. No, we are speaking of a happy medium where your path toward the future is balanced with total acceptance of the current you. Please do not be put off by the word acceptance.
“Must I accept this job that I hate? Must I accept this relationship that is not working?”
Not at all! Acceptance does not mean a resignation to one’s fate. It is an awareness of what “is” which always points to the now. Attempts to deny and suppress the “isms” that are your life yield pain and inhibit the path to the very goal you seek. On the contrary, acceptance frees the energy that would otherwise fuel negativity, and refocuses it on the mission and its completion.
Dissolution Awaits Your Arrival
Yes, the dark side of having attained any goal is the awareness that your happiness and fulfillment will one day cease because it will and must. This truth is the Law of Impermanence at work.
We look to goals as the summit of our evolution. The fact is we never stop growing in our time here. Every success is a measure of growth as well as every failure.
I have had my share of both, with a feeling that the scale heavily tips on the side of failure. But failure is yet another coloring of reality, as no goal worth its salt can end without the individual having grown. Sadly, this point is lost on those who are blinded by the preoccupation that they ought to have arrived somewhere.
How you get there matters equally
Where have we come in this short time? We have grabbed the third rail and are shown to be still alive. Question and examine everything! The answers you seek are already inside of you. Don’t be afraid to shut out the noise and tune in the truth that is waiting to be rediscovered.
Nothing you do should require anger, frustration, or bitterness as an input to its completion. If your goals have you feeling this way, then they are simply the wrong ones. Your goals should be congruent with your life and bring you deeper into the present moment. After all, there is nothing about your life that can be improved.
Now go out there and play!