Goal-Setting vs. Living in the Now
How Imagining Tomorrow Helps You Embrace Today
I often ask people, “Do you set goals?”
The most common response I hear is…
“I go with the flow.”
or… “I rather live in the moment.”
But then I say, “Hold on there! I spend much of my day in the present moment, but I’m also extremely goal-orientated!”
Living in the present and planning for the future are not contradictory; they’re complimentary!
By having life goals I FEEL MORE EMPOWERED to enjoy, master, and be one with the present.
Goals increase my enjoyment of the present moment.
When I have a goal such as to publish this article it makes the act of writing more enjoyable because there is more meaning attached to it.
When my mind wanders…
“When does the next batman movie release? I like Batman. He is my favorite superhero.”
I can catch myself mid-thought and think…
“Anthony, who cares? You need to focus!”
But if I didn’t have goals I wouldn’t know my priorities and if I didn’t know my priorities then how would I decide what to focus on?
Without focus our mind wanders away from the present.
Our mind is wired for survival, which means wandering brings about thoughts of self-doubt and worst case scenarios.
This is why so many people settle down instead of saddle up.
Without goals the world is a more complex, stressful place because nothing matters. Everything is relative.
By setting goals it simplifies my world by narrowing my focus.
By reverse engineering my goals I’m more easily able to relax and focus on the task at hand.
I’m so focused on the present that I was fired from a job once because, “Anthony, you’re too focused!”
To further make my point, let’s imagine that in the Wizard of Oz Dorothy didn’t have the goal of getting to the Emerald City.
What if the movie was just about Dorothy aimlessly walking through the woods? What motivation would she have to get up in the morning? What motivation would she have to enjoy the present moment if she had nothing to live for?
Goals increase my mastery of the present moment.
The guy who coined the term said that one of the requirements for getting into “flow” is to have an immediate goal.
It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end. — Ernest Hemingway
Athletes often experience “flow” or what they call “being in the zone” because in sports their is a clear objective — winning!
Or in extreme sports such as tightrope walking, the goal is to get to the other side!
The tightrope walker has the very clear goal of not wanting to die, but simultaneously is deeply immersed in the present moment.
Goals don’t distract from the present; They pull us more deeply into it!
Goals increase my oneness with the present moment.
I use to think Buddhist monks were the enemies of goal-setting, but now I realize they’re its greatest advocates.
Buddhism is goal-oriented (liberation from suffering) and offers an organized system to reach that goal.
Buddhist monks are on a very clear, well-defined path that requires a lot of discipline.
They’re on the path to enlightenment.
And Buddhist philosophers, such as the Dalai Lama, have philosophized about the benefits of goal-setting…
The more clearly you can see the goal you are aspiring to, and the greater your commitment to attaining it, the greater your motivation will be on the path.
And Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now…
Enthusiasm means there is a deep enjoyment in what you do plus the added element of a goal or vision that you work toward.
Or even Buddha himself…
What you think; you become. What you feel; you attract. What you imagine; you create.
Some Buddhists also have Yantra tattoos, which if you think writing down your goals is too much of a hassle imagine tattooing them on your body!
Each tattoo is suppose to help you with a certain goal such as to attract strength, healing, fortune, peace, etc.
A Buddhist said this…
We hold our goals lightly, so that they represent the direction in which we want to move rather than something we must achieve.
As the cliche goes, “It’s about the journey”, but we need a destination if our mind, body, and spirit will allow us to get fully immersed in that journey.
3 Step Goal-Setting Exercise:
1. Write 5–10 Goals
If you’re having a hard time then imagine what you’d want your average day to look like in 5 years. Write in detail. Then distill that vision into actionable goals.
2. Breakdown into habits & to-dos
What specific habits and to-dos will help you achieve your goals? Write a few for each goal.
3. One at a time
Throughout the day ask yourself if what you’re doing is aligned with where you want to be. Eliminate distractions. Then immerse yourself in what you’re doing.