Setting Goals in the New Year
The goals we choose dictate the direction of our lives. Without goals our life will have no direction. Our major life goals are closely linked with what we consider to be the purpose of our life. We need a sense of purpose to inspire us towards our goals and our goals will become the concrete manifestation of our feeling of purpose. This, then is our task: to develop a sense of purpose in our lives and to then choose goals based on that sense of purpose.
We must spend time pondering and finding out what is most important to us and what we want to do for the world and ourselves. This understanding of ourselves will not come from watching television or reading the daily newspaper. To reach deeper aspects of ourselves, we need to directly experience our deeper nature. This is done through periods of self-reflection.
We need to set aside time each day, or time every week, for self-reflection and meditation. We must give ourselves time and space in which to explore our deep thoughts and feelings. This does not need to be an elaborate, ceremonial event, but can simply be a quiet walk each evening, a solitary hike in the woods, or ten minutes of quiet time each day away from the distractions and pressures of everyday life. These moments of empowering aloneness will quickly become a wellspring of creativity and insight in our lives.
Our goals do not have to be world-transforming; they can be simple and humble. Our goals can encompass both material and spiritual wealth. The essential factor in this process is that our goals emerge from within ourselves – from within our own minds and hearts. We need to cast aside the limiting ideas of contemporary society and those things which others think and tell us we should do. We must learn to follow the unique dreams each one of us has. One day we will realize the wonderful opportunity that life is. Sri Chinmoy writes:
If we discover the secret of speaking to our inner being, we will solve all our problems and discover the true meaning of our human existence. This human existence is a golden opportunity that the Supreme has granted us. We sat that we don’t have an opportunity; it is a sheer lie. The Supreme has given us the opportunity, but we do not avail ourselves of that opportunity.
On a piece of paper write down the following categories: physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual. Next to each of these write, in a sentence or two, your general sense of purpose for each category. For example, next to emotional you may write: “To create and give importance to relationships that are fulfilling and healthy.” Take your time doing this. You may find yourself changing your purpose as you think more deeply about each subject.
The “physical” category deals with your body and health. “Financial” encompasses your material wants and needs. The “emotional” category will deal with friendships, relationships, and your interaction with other human beings. The category of “spiritual” addresses your deepest feelings regarding the purpose of your life and the need to explore those feelings.
These general statements of purpose should be the expression of your deep feelings about your life and exactly where you want it to go.
Now, below each category, write one or two goals you have for that aspect of your life. These should support the earlier statement of purpose. For example, under “physical” your purpose may have been, “to create and maintain a healthy body through exercise and nutrition.” Now the specific goals can be:
1. To exercise for at least ten minutes every day.
2. To make sure you eat a healthy breakfast each day.
The goals you set will make or break this system. You need to set goals that are realistic and take into account where you are now. Make your goals “non-judgmental,” in that the attainment of the goal is not based on an opinion or rigid standard. This is exemplified by the difference between the goals: “I will exercise ten minutes a day” and “I want to look trim and be beautiful.” The first goal is an action-related goal. The second is based on the opinions of yourself or others and is far too prone to fluctuations.
Goal setting is a skill and an art. We always have the ability to act, but not always to influence what results will occur. Set your goals as action-oriented.
For example, let’s say your sense of purpose in the “emotional” category is to ‘create and give importance to relationships that are productive and healthy.’ An excellent action-related goal for this category would be: ‘I will be kind and outgoing to all new people I meet.’ This is an action we can perform that will have positive effects in ways we cannot even imagine. A goal that would be unproductive or out of our control would be, “to be liked by all new people I meet” or “to become good friends with new people I meet.” These last two goals depend on situations and feelings you cannot control. What if the next three people you meet never like anybody they met for the first time? All you can do is be kind and outgoing. You are not in control of other people’s feelings.
This principle should apply to all of your goals. You can eat well and exercise, but you cannot consciously cause your body to weigh less than it does now. This will most likely occur, but center your goals on what you can control.
Let’s say that under ‘spiritual’ your purpose is to give people hope and joy in their lives through guitar music. One of your general goals that you want to accomplish is to improve your guitar playing. Action-oriented goals would be to “practice one hour every day” or “take two lessons each week.” These are excellent goals. Unproductive goals would be to “become a great guitarist” or “become as good as so and so.” What if so and so keeps getting better, faster than you do? You will never reach your goal and get frustrated. Soon you will find yourself wishing for their demise so you can surpass them! By choosing action goals we assure that we are the masters of our destiny.
We do not want to compare ourselves to others so much, but rather seek to explore and express the best within ourselves. We each have something unique to offer to the world. If we always imitate others we will only create limitations and never originals.
Our goals need to be attainable and within your view of possibility, yet far-reaching enough to challenge and inspire you. Your goals should give you a sense of excitement and hopefulness. Choose goals that are not set in stone. As you achieve each goal, you set new ones. Your ability to create attainable, challenging goals is one of the first keys to your success.
The following is a very challenging exercise. You will need to have all of your goals and purposes written down and in front of you. If you have not done so already, put them down in writing.
Now, the challenging part: see if for an entire day everything you do can be directed towards one of your goals. This can be a very powerful experience. It also tests that your goals are not too limiting. You should have goals that are general enough and inspiring enough so that each day, in one way or another, you are working at each moment towards your goals. You will quickly see when you are “wasting time” and when you are moving in the life direction you have chosen.
Choose certain days to be ‘goal only’ days. These days will be your most fulfilling and you will want to have more and more of them. Again, don’t be too rigid in your thinking or goal setting. The goals of “getting healthy” and “improving friendships” could both be encompassed by a day on the beach, swimming, and enjoying fresh air and sun with some friends. By being conscious of our goals at all times, we can empower our mundane day-to-day experiences with a deep relevance and significance.
From Strategy for Success by Sujantra McKeever
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