Thursday, October 13, 2016

A different perspective on goal-setting...

October has always been my favorite time of year — The way it looks, feels, smells, and the transitional energy of fall energize me in a way that summer does not. While spring and summer are nice, early through mid-fall is when I feel the most aware and the most introspective.

October is the time I feel more inclined to do a year-in-review to see how far I’ve come, rather than focus on how far I still want to go by year-end or what I want to achieve next year.

While part of this is probably because my birthday is in October, I think my natural preference for fall has more to do with the fact that fall lends itself to introspection and slowing down to catch our breath. Fall being the gear-shifting time, the middle ground, between summer’s activity and winter’s lull is, for me, the perfect environmental manifestation of the middle way, that sweet spot between extremes that’s much easier for me to breathe and think in.

I’ve found that my human-revolution and life-achievement approach is more about recalibration than goal-setting. By recalibration I don’t mean foregoing doing any active shaping of my life for a kind of passive or reactionary adaptation to what happens to me; what I mean is having a vision in mind and allowing it to change as I see what happens in response to my actions.

While what happens to me is my responsibility through my karma, I can’t predict or control every manifestation of my karma, or how it affects my goals.

Impermanence is a major concept in Buddhism. For me this means that I can set concrete goals until there’s no paper left to write them on, and there will always be the possibility that they simply won’t happen because they’re not meant to, for whatever reason. The unexpected can always happen.

For some people, setting concrete goals, particularly with deadlines, helps them focus on achieving what they want or need to. For me, this approach has always been like putting on blinders that cause me to miss out on all kinds of things, people, and developments around me that I would have done better for myself to put a higher priority on.

Until I realized this, I used to think that my inability to do the kind of goal-setting and follow-through that “successful” people do was a personal failing of mine. I felt that I’d done something wrong, or that there was something wrong with me, when year after year would go by and I still didn’t meet the man I want to marry and who wants to marry me; I figured it was because I didn’t follow the exact formula for single-minded, daily devotion to this one goal for enough time that it would happen like Arielle Ford said it would. My original vision was that I would be married (or at least dating the man I would marry) by age 35. I turn 37 in one week and still am not even dating anyone.

Instead of getting depressed and discouraged about this like I did this time last year, I decided instead to simply accept that I’m wired differently than Arielle Ford, and that I can choose to take this as a sign that there are other things which need my attention more right now.

Instead of seeing my different approach to goals as a lack self-discipline or ambition, I decided to accept this about myself and see how I can use it as a strength rather than as a liability. When I set aside self-judgement and looked from a broader perspective at how my life has developed and how I’ve changed this year, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: I found that for every clearly-stated goal I didn’t achieve, I achieved at least two or three breakthroughs that were just as or more important, and which I never would have thought of setting as goals, or that I thought it unlikely that my karma and my human-revolutionary progress were good enough for me to achieve anytime soon.

This realization prompted me to think differentlyabout the idea of success, which I’ll write about next week.



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Image: "Looking down into Madonna Woods" by Karla Joy Huber, 2010; oil pastel

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