Sunday, June 03, 2001

The Folly of Goals

The picture on this page is from a paddling trip my friend Deb and I took to Quetico a few years ago. The old car was sitting along the portage trail. We were tired and hungry and had some distance to go before we could set camp. Even so, we hopped in the car and spent a ton of time trying to get the camera hanging just right in a tree so we could set the timer and get the pic. With a little creative play and a lot of laughing, that time out made the rest of the day a breeze. Beep beep!

The dictionary defines a goal as ‘the result or achievement toward which effort is directed.” It's that word “effort” that bothers me. Here's the interesting thing I've discovered about goals. The more effort I put towards a goal, the less perfect my present becomes. And the less perfect my present is, the more goals I set. Goals can be seductive and cause me to strive.

Let's say you're on a well-worn forest path. The goal is the large oak tree at the end of the path. Many have been there before you so you believe if you just follow the path, with effort, you'll reach the goal too. It's a long trek and not everyone has survived the journey so you become extremely focused on the goal and you plan methodically, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, step-by-step, your journey. In order to take this exhausting journey, you believe that nothing, but nothing, can distract you from your goal. Do you make it? Maybe, maybe not. But in your determination and your striving, you purposefully put on blinders to keep you from distractions. You gear yourself each day with a work-hard attitude in order to attain your goal.

But distractions are the very thing that makes the present so rich. Perhaps one of the distractions is another hiker who has already reached the goal tree. He would tell you, if you had taken the time to listen, that this goal is not worth the effort. It is old and fading and it is no longer able to support you. But in your desire to reach the goal, your head is down, focused on each step you take on the path, you ignore or totally miss the hiker. Perhaps the distraction is another path, less worn but obviously starting to be used. But in your nose-to-the-ground mode, you pass right by, never knowing that this path leads to two oak trees, just as beautiful as your original oak goal and a much shorter trip.

I'm not suggesting you let go of all wants and desires. In fact, have a ton of wants and desires. Desire any little old thing that comes to mind and intend for it to happen. But then let go of your attachment to it. That's where goals foul us up. When we take that desire and turn it into a goal, we become attached to the outcome. That very attachment puts us in striving mode and the striving robs us of our enjoyment of the present. Desires and intentions are a more relaxing knowing or sureness that unhooks us from the striving. And with this, action comes from inspiration rather than a set of defined steps you have determined you must take to reach the goal.

If you're willing to approach all you want with desire and intention, no stop along the way or altered path is a mistake. What freedom!

“When the future becomes far more important than the present, the destination holds more importance than the journey.” ~Thomas Leonard

"To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top." ~Robert Pirsig

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.” ~Henry David Thoreau

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure. ~Mark Twain

No comments:

Post a Comment