Do Your Goals Improve the Present?

Your goals might have started out well meaning and inspiring, but somewhere along the way they turned into taskmaster-like tyrants. Running your life, making you feel inadequate; giving you a persistent feeling that there’s always something “more” you could be doing.

So you start to wonder… maybe I don’t really need goals. Maybe goals are the problem. Maybe I just need to accept things the way they are, right now. Then you might think…

Maybe I should kill my goals.

I’ve thought a lot about this myself. I’ve gone back and forth from living completely goal-less, to being utterly goal-consumed, and everywhere in between. What I’ve come to find is this:

What matters isn’t achieving or not achieving goals. Goals within themselves are not good or bad. What matters the most is not achieving the perfect goals, but cultivating the perfect path.

“You know you’re on the perfect path when you wouldn’t change anything about it.”

Goals can be great tools to help you cultivate a perfect path, but they’re only effective inasmuch as they help you to experience an incredibly awesome present. If they don’t improve the present, they’re probably not very good goals.

I started thinking about this a lot on real paths, ones in the mountains and back country of where I live in Southern California. And I was inspired to shoot this short video on an incredibly beautiful path at Colby trail. (If you’re reading this in a feed reader or email, click here to view the video)

I’ve been thinking about this idea of cultivating the perfect path for a while now, and it’s really shifted the way I think about a lot of things. It’s caused me to…

  • Start exploring the beauty of the world instead of thinking that I need to do something to change it.
  • Realize the fastest way to change the world is often to look for the good already in it.
  • Choose goals that make me feel good right now, instead of sometime in the future.
  • Spend more time with my wife and my family.
  • Go on more hikes, read more books, and practice martial arts for the fun of it (not to achieve anything).
  • Be more playful.
  • Approach life with more curiosity and wonder.
  • Stop worrying about money and realize the amazing amount of abundance that exists without me having to create it.

And it’s not that I’ve killed all of my goals. I still have a lot of them. But if I don’t reach them, I don’t freak out. If I reach my benchmarks, I celebrate. But I also celebrate even when I don’t.

“Life is too short to do anything but celebrate all the time.”

Basically, I don’t need a reason to celebrate any more. When I have one, it’s just an unexpected bonus.

Sometimes my goals guide the path, sometimes my path guides the goals I choose, but it’s always about the path.

Probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned is that no matter what is influencing the other — the path influencing the goals, or the goals influencing the path — what matters ultimately is that I am enjoying the path.

And I know based on how I feel. When I feel great, when I wake up excited, when I have unexplained, spontaneous bursts of laughter… I am on the perfect path. When I am feeling sluggish, overwhelmed or stressed, it’s a signal that somehow I’ve gone a little off course. I need to retrace my steps and get back on my heart-centered path.

How I feel, my intuition and my internal compass are my guidance system. When I listen, they tell me when I am on course or not. Everything that directs me is found from within. Not without.

“It’s not about finding a path ‘out there,’ it’s about embracing the beautiful one always waiting inside of you. The best part is, you don’t need to create it. Start from your core, and take the first step.”

There is an incredible, delicious and exciting journey waiting inside of you. All you need to do is start exploring it. You don’t need to find it, you don’t need to follow anyone else’s path. As Joseph Campbell said “If there is a path, it’s not your path.” I think that’s true.

The only real satisfying path is the one you uncover in yourself.

True paths are uncovered, unearthed, and created through your feet kissing the earth.

As I said before, the path is already inside of you. And the way it’s uncovered is through your feet kissing the earth with each step you take. With each stride, your soul makes love to the world, and you begin co-creating your life.

Your walking creates the unfolding.

“The object is not to drink to quench your thirst. The object is to develop the perfect thirst, so that you never stop drinking.” – Sufi teaching

The object of your perfect path is not to get anywhere. Even though we think it is, because that seems to make sense. The reason you walk, or take action is not to achieve.

It would seem like the path is only a means to an end, a route to reach the goal.

But it’s not.

The reason for the path is to experience, to cultivate an incredibly satisfying now. Which is really not that hard at all. You don’t have to find the perfect path, remember?

You have all the tools you need to uncover it: your intuition, your feelings, and your internal compass will guide you.

The first question is, how much are you enjoying now? That’s the only way you can know whether or not you’re on the right path.

It’s already waiting inside you. It’s here. Take a moment to feel it within you, stirring, restless and waiting to awaken from its slumber.

I guess the next question is, when will you start your journey?

photo courtesy of izzard

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