To understand my reasoning, you must first recognize two innate conditions that drive any goal setting activity. The first is desire. You desire your goal. This seems obvious, but it is when things are the most simple that we tend not to examine them closely. The second condition is a bit more elusive: the duration of the goal. When we think of a goal, we think of something to reach. We do not think of time when we envision our goals. We can either touch it like a BMW or think of it as a concept like weight loss, better health, a job and so on. But we rarely think about the time that it takes to reach that goal and if we do, we don’t think of it as quality time spent but rather as a time we must “bear down” and “buckle in” and basically force our willpower over our spirit to achieve the goal.
Now ask yourself: what do you do when you set a goal? Most likely your answer will be that you seek advice on how to act so you can reach your goal. But everyone has different goals and desires because our life experiences, socioeconomic living conditiosn and cultural backgrounds are all different, but we still keep on hoping that some writer can give us the “fix.”
There is a reason why motivational speeches and advice hardly ever apply to the long term. Think of an ox. Now you wish to use this ox to help you plow a field. But this is a wild ox and it is scared to move or be touched. It digs its legs into the mud pit and will not move an inch. So you decide to tell it to “envision” plowing a field. Maybe you even build a “vision board” for your ox. Then you start training your ox to lift its legs, one at a time. Then visualize the ox walking through the field. You ask the ox to see himself walking to the goal. If you fail, and then, during a late night television session, you spot a device that can lift the legs of the ox. “Guaranteed to work or your money back. Just an easy payment of $9.99 per month.” You laugh, right? But we all have been there to some degree. Yes, vision boards can help and visualization and training can be useful. But they are all worthless until the ox starts trusting the relationship. Until you understand the fear that holds the ox back and you build trust and understanding in your relationship.
The problem is, when we set goals, our sight is set on the future. We don’t always take time to understand the past or the present. But we cannot move forward without understanding. So before you can take steps to reach a goal, you must understand yourself and your goal!
Let’s turn back to your goals. I said earlier that goals are driven by desire. So it is absolutely important to recognize the root of your desire. Most importantly, you must determine if this desire is yours at all. I know, at first glance, you tell me: “of course Dora, you are being ridiculous; it is my goal, thus my desire.” I say, not so fast. Every idea that we carry in our mind came from somewhere. We learn our culture from the country where we were born and raised; we learn our first wishes from our parents and our friends. So, is your desire yours? For example, if you want to go to medical school, is it because you want to cure people or is it because your parents think it is a great profession? If you want to lose 10 pounds, is it because you will be healthier or is it because society will think you look better? Before you go anywhere with your goal, you must determine the source of your desire. You must understand your desire. It often happens that once someone clearly sees the root of the desire, their desire disappears. To that I say: well done! Good work. Now you can think and meditate on a goal that is worth your time.
The second concept I brought up earlier was the idea that a goal is something to reach. That this something is not subject to time and we can either touch it or think of it as a concept. So you may wish for a nicer bigger house, a new profession or better health. Let’s suppose that your goal stood up to the test of meditating on your desire. You have determined that it is your goal and you understand why you wish to pursue your goal. Now it is time to examine your goal as a process. Life is not just about goals. Goals happen and life is lived between your goals. You must think of the process that leads to that goal. If you don’t like or trust the process, I guarantee you will have a hard time reaching that goal. And when you reach that goal, you will not feel as satisfied as you thought you would. Let me put this idea into examples. I finished two degrees in college; one in history and one in neurobiology. My father wanted me to become a doctor. I was not convinced. Like most young people, I had trouble distinguishing between my desires versus the desires of my parents. What I really wanted was to be a professor of humanities, but I did not discover that till a later age. What I did know was that I was not sure about being in medicine. So I did what most young people do when their desires are not clear, but they are being forced in a certain direction: I rebelled. I did not apply to med school or grad school but told my parents to let me try to get jobs in those fields to test them out.
(Clearly still wanting to be a good child). So I did, I got jobs in laboratories. I learned a lot. I will never regret the path that I took because I value knowledge. All this learning made me the yoga teacher and studio owner that I am today. But I also discovered that I hated the day-to-day routine of the laboratory work and I did not like the slow process of discovery. I loved the learning part of it, but I did not enjoy the process of the work. A lot of people go to school to study and acquire a new profession, but rarely do folks think about what that profession entails in the day-to-day activity. We see the life of a yoga teacher, the life of a doctor, lawyer and so on. What we need to do is understand the process, the daily activities of these professions. Once we understand these activities, we can then say we are clear on our goal.
Of course, there are some goals that are more to the point. For example, your goal could be to get in shape and lose some weight. Do recognize that it is still a process. If you simply focus on your goal, you will be miserable. Instead, ask yourself this question: what physical activity do I enjoy? Do I enjoy being alone? Being outside versus inside? The goal should be to find something that you enjoy that has the side effect of moving your body. You should never force yourself to exercise in a way that you dislike to achieve your goal.
Or if you wish to be in a bigger house, you should recognize that it will cost more money and more upkeep. Will you enjoy the extra work that reaching this goal requires? Because if you do not enjoy your extra responsibilities then your bigger house will become your prison sooner than you know!
Life is a process. Instead of being a prisoner to your desires year after year, build awareness in your life and be conscious of your actions.
When you enjoy your life, you don’t need motivational speeches and even if you never reach your goal, you will have a wonderful time living from day-to-day.
[Photo by Richard Stephenson– CC BY]
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