Goals Don’t Matter!

Ya, you’re right. What I just wrote goes against so much of what is common in the personal growth industry. I think every writer of this genre has a section of their work dedicated to setting goals and reviewing them. Anthony Robbins, Stephen Covey, Wayne Dyer and Benjamin Hardy have all written and talked about the need to decide upon and head for our goals. And I agree with them. It is important to pursue our goals. However, what the goal is, I am discovering, really doesn’t matter.

You see, when I decide upon a goal, say reaching the summit of a mountain, I challenge myself. There are many ways of meeting that challenge. I can try to go straight up, in a beeline, to the summit. That, depending upon the mountain and my experience, will take the least amount of time, and it’s also the riskiest way to get to the top, especially if I’m new at it. I could go around and around the mountain, each time spiraling slightly above where I had hiked before. That’s probably the longest way, needing the least amount of experience required to make it to the summit. I may combine the two methods. Perhaps I can study the methods of those who have gone before. There are many ways to the summit.

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The ‘how’ of reaching my goal, for me, is what it is all about. If I am an experienced climber, then I will take the more challenging route. I believe that it’s the challenge of the goal that pulls us forward. It forces us to use our talents, extend our limits, push ourselves out of our comfort zone to aspire to new things that really matters. The real work? That happens in the ascent.

It is the path that I take, the errors that I correct, the struggles I fight and the anguish that I emote that makes achieving a goal worthwhile. If I was able to make it up one rock-face, I know I have the ability to scale the next one. The wind and the cold vie with focus and endurance, trying to throw me off of the climb. And even if I don’t reach the top for whatever reason, I have created a new experience, new or sharpened skills, and improved self-confidence all at my ready to take onto the next goal. Getting to the top really doesn’t matter. It is what I learn along the way that enlivens me.

I believe that it is important to make worthy goals for ourselves. They are what lead us forward, force us to think in different ways and put us into situations which challenge everything we think we know about ourselves and the world. A worthy goal will pull me along. It will force me to leave behind parts of myself that are no longer valid. It will lead me to a newer version of myself. I achieve this by the process of getting to the goal, not because I achieve the goal. And at the end, once I have reached the summit, it’s usually anticlimactic. “What’s next?” I ask myself.

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So make yourself some goals in life. Work hard to achieve them. And once you get to the top of the mountain, take the time to reflect on what it took to get you there. Enjoy the experience but know that after you get there, you have to make your way down, the next part of the journey toward your next worthy goal. Life happens on the way up to the top of the mountain, not on summit. Nature shows us: growth happens in the valley, not on the mountain top. As with life, so it is with our goals; it really is the journey that counts, not the destination.

And remember, if I really only want to see the view from the top, I can always hire a helicopter.

Opening the Mind

I am using a good deal of my time during this enforced lock-down to read books, watch videos and write about growing as an individual and as a society. Lately I have discovered London Real, with Brian Rose who interviews a wide range of contemporary people on interesting, often controversial topics. A video lecture given by Graham Hancock led on to other videos and then his book, ‘America Before’. Various articles available through Medium.com, TED talks, ideas on minimalism and stoicism all became fodder for my investigations. Really, I feel like I am giving myself a crash course in living and life. And I am loving it.

There are so many philosophies, ideologies and theories floating around in today’s world. I could spend the rest of my life studying them and applying them to myself and my life. However, as I have gone through these past three months of investigation, I have noticed that while there are many differences, they are, really, all facets of the same gem we call life. The river flows over many different beds and at many different speeds, and though it is ever changing, it is the same river and no one part of it can define it completely.

The theory of Consciousness has been at the core of my investigations. Science is moving away from the theory that consciousness is ‘local’ as in, consciousness is located in our brain. Rather, from psychology to quantum physics, we are being shown, through logic and experiment, that our brain is more like a television receiver than a computer, and that it is constantly interacting with some sort of Consciousness. Some refer to it as the ‘morphic field’, ‘field of probabilities’, ‘unified field’ or simply, ‘the field’. Our thoughts and ideas, as they spring from this field, flood our receiving brain. We either capture them and use them or we dismiss them and, like a dream remembered upon awakening, they fade into oblivion.

Books like ‘The Secret’ and ‘Becoming Supernatural’, talk about taping into this field. Napoleon Hill’s 1937 classic ‘Think and Grow Rich’, though using different terminology, talks about this ‘field’. Spiritual literature speaks of the ‘realm of the spirit’ or of God. And I believe that they are all taking about the same thing. The idea, in many modes of expression, has been around going back to the ancients. There is nothing new here, but it seems that since the 18th century, science beat out spirituality with the notion that humans are the pinnacle of evolution and consciousness became confined to the body. We don’t need any god; science will provide the answers we need. It’s only in the past 40 years that there’s been some serious study as to the source of the Big C of consciousness.

Plato & Aristotle take a walk.

While it may seem like this is a battle between evolutionists and creationists, I assure you it is not. The discussion has come full circle as accredited scientists are demonstrating that there are things that cannot be explained alone by consciousness localized only in the brain. Einstein poked at the idea but when it came to a force that he couldn’t understand yet, he referred to it as ‘spooky action at a distance.’

Probably the greatest lesson that I have learned in the last three months is that I don’t know much, and that there are a lot that humans understand neither themselves nor our universe. Meanwhile, it is fun to explore new ideas and theories and not be tied by definitions that I was taught well, a lot of years ago. You might enjoy the movie ‘What the {%&@$#} Do We Know’, available on YouTube. It is a good jumping off point to going down the proverbial rabbit hole of new discoveries. Or if you wish, a short, easy to follow explanation of the famous ‘Double-Slit Experiment.’

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 There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy…Hamlet

I heard a friend say that by the end of this whole Covid 19 thing we will end up at Drunks, Chunks or Hunks; the choice is our own. A Netflix binge is okay once in a while, but I prefer more active thinking and learning. Who knows what we might learn or down which rabbit hole it might lead? All it takes is an open mind!

Meditation…

I have tried meditation various times over the years and just couldn’t seem to get the knack of it. You see, I cannot fold myself into the lotus position, at least not without breaking at least one leg. And sitting cross-legged is also very difficult for me, especially after more that just a couple of minutes. So I figured if my body wasn’t designed to do meditation. I know this was just an excuse but I never really gave it much of a serious thought or any sort of a concerted effort.

There are many methods of meditation. As a teenager, I remember that Transcendental Meditation (TM) was big. Everyone who was anyone was taking the course and learning their mantras. For most North Americans, it was the first time Eastern philosophy was ever discussed and practiced. Later, other practices of meditation were sought out and taught. Some meditate by focusing on their breathing. Others focus on an object, or use prayer beads to quiet their minds. I like Eastern spirituality and I understand the appeal of Buddhism and its teachings. But the Buddhas, the gongs, the incense, its prayer wheels and flags, could not keep me in a practice of meditation. And yet, I knew that I wanted it, and probably needed it!

Why do people meditate? It relaxes the body and mind, thereby reducing the negative stress and anxiety that we experience. As well, scientific research is proving that it has a physiological effect on the body. It can change our body chemistry, releasing dopamine and other ‘feel good’ molecules into our bloodstream. Creativity, attention and memory are positively influenced. You don’t have to meditate for hours on end to enjoy the benefits and they last long after the quiet time we spend. Meditation changes you: body and soul! (Forbes Magazine: 7 Ways Meditation can Actually Change the Brain.)

So even though I knew about all these benefits, it wasn’t until a good friend of mine introduced me to a book by Sam Harris: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion, that everything finally clicked into place for me. I still haven’t finished the book but I appreciate his very practical approach to spirituality and to meditation. I downloaded the meditation app and started using its guided meditations. I think it’s about ten free sessions before they ask you to pay up, but for me, it is well worth it. I finished the 50, ten minute beginner sessions and now usually use the daily meditation, between 10 and 20 minutes long.

After more than three months, meditation is part of my morning routine, along with daily writing and, of course, coffee. Do I see and feel the benefits? While I can’t say that I feel my brain cells growing and changing, I can say that I appreciate the calm, the quiet, and the peace. Some days it takes longer than others to calm the thoughts and focus on just breathing. It’s common that I find myself deep in some thought and Sam’s voice will reach out of the silence to tug me back to this moment. There are days where I become mesmerized by the dance of colours that I see behind my eyelids. Fortunately, there’s no graduation from this practice. It is a daily practice that I invite you to enjoy as much as I do.

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Find what type of meditation works best for you. If you want to sit cross-legged and burn incense, that’s great, but it’s not necessary. You need only find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed for a few moments. And you can meditate at any time of the day. Hey, if you find that you really do ‘wake up’ at the end of the session, you won’t be the first to have fallen asleep. There is no wrong way. There is only the embrace of the stillness that is within us all.

I first heard this ‘prayer’ in the Waking Up sessions. I have incorporated it into my daily practice. And it is my wish for you:

May you be happy.   
May you be free from suffering.   
May you know peace.