Part of living in the moment is not constantly looking forward to a future that may or may not happen. When we’re constantly striving towards something, we’re constantly evaluating ourselves, putting ourselves down for a lack of progress or getting sidetracked in celebrating the progress we have made. Whether it’s writing a book, losing weight, or obtaining a black belt, the goals are not the end-all-be-all, we’ve all set goals for ourselves. They are a milestone in your life’s story. Live your story instead of daydreaming about the end of this chapter.
Think of a time you struggled or even failed at achieving a goal you had set. Think of a time you succeeded. You’re positioning yourself for a lifetime of failure and looking toward something if you’re not living that something instead. Change is difficult and goals represent a form of change in your life. What inspires you? What new behaviors do you want to stick to? Do you want to be better, healthier, or develop a skill?
Stop saying “on ‘this day’ I’ll be able to or will have achieved ‘this'”. Instead, say today I will do this. Build a system instead of a goal. When carpenters build homes, they begin with the foundation. So what’s your foundation? What system are you going to build to better your life? Are you going to write for a certain amount of time every day? How long are you going to train each day? Are you an athlete? A painter? Do you want to be one of these things or something else? Every goal you set can be fleshed out in a system instead of a far off achievement.
Life is a journey, not a destination.
That phrase is popular and carries a lot of weight. It is seven words that could replace this entire blog. What do you do when you reach your chosen destination? After you’ve ran that marathon you were training for, what do you do? Do you fall under the elusive yo-yo effect that a lot of goals cause? The yo-yo effect is what happens to a lot of people when they reach their goals, they slide backwards rather fiercely.
You don’t need immediate results. You don’t have to be in control. If you were a river, you wouldn’t be building your own dams. If you were the wind, you wouldn’t be building walls to change your current. You would go with the flow. You would push on naturally. You need to look at processes.
When we set goals for ourselves, we immediately invalidate any time we’re not achieving them. This, in turn, reduces your happiness in the moment. Let’s take a look at some examples.
- Runner: Instead of setting a goal to run a marathon, put in place a system of scheduled training.
- Student: Instead of setting a goal of obtaining a degree, a black belt, enlightenment, or anything you could be a student of, put in place a system of scheduled studying, of scheduled practice.
This can be applied to anything from getting better at a video game because you want to win a tournament to business practices to writing music and more. How will this affect progress? We live in an age where social media slams us with goal-oriented progress checking, apps that follow us, literally, every where we go counting our steps and tracking our runs, even the very beating of the organ that keeps us going.
What happens when you stop focusing on later and instead focus on now? I do this daily with my martial arts training, whether it’s Karate, Kung Fu, or Taijiquan. I focus on the very moment, on the forms I am learning, on the techniques I am teaching my mind and body. I’m not focusing on a goal of achieving a black belt or black sash, I am focusing on what I need to do right now, in this very moment, which in this very moment is writing this article.
Instead of having a goal of writing three articles each week, I simply schedule myself to work on them each day. Sure, I skip some days, and sometimes, like now, I’m up a bit late so I can get this published on time, but the idea of writing a ton as a specific goal each week kills it for me. It makes me not want to, really. I’d rather just be in the moment with my writing each day. That’s actually allowed me to write faster and better. Instead of working on an article each day, I may work on several. I may finish several and post-date them. Without this, I would never have reached the 12403 words I’ve written since my first post just shy of a month ago. I mean, think about that. The average book is 50,000-60,000 words. I’m a quarter of the way there and all I’ve done is trust the process and dedicate myself to this system!
New Years is just a day away. With it comes that often heard phrase, “new year, new me,” and a plethora of people hitting the gym for a few weeks, maybe a couple months, but most don’t stick. You don’t need a holiday, or the refreshing of an artificial calendar that we engineered to keep track of days and weeks to start changing your life. You can start that today, you can start that any day you please.
I don’t misunderstand the value of setting goals. It can be a direction providing experience. In the short-term, I feel they’re a positive, but in the long term I feel they do nothing but drag you down. Remember, both winners and losers of the same championship match had the same goal. Don’t be your goals. Ditch them, build systems and processes. Love yourself and commit to living every single day instead of solely surviving, and most importantly, enjoy what you are doing.