How You Approach Your Goals Matters
Episode #5 of the course Embodied mindfulness: Tools for tuning in to your health, creativity, and purpose by Mina Samuels
Glad you’re back!
Now that we’re bringing the body-mind better online, let’s look at a new way of approaching the goals we want to achieve. After all, as we tune into our body-mind harmony, we naturally clarify the reasons we want to get up in the morning—our driving force, our purpose. How we approach our goals matters.
Goals are important. A goal is a specific manifestation of our purpose and gives us direction. Goals sharpen our intention. Yet, as counterintuitive as it sounds, the outcome, reaching our goal, cannot be more important than the process of getting there. Life is one, hopefully long, process. We call this process living, and we are doing it every moment of every day of our lives.
It’s no surprise, then, that feeling fulfilled is about process, not about outcome. That’s how we should approach all our goals. Do you want to be happier tomorrow? Enjoy today first. Want to be the boss? Love the job you do now, on your way to the corner office. Writing a book? Feel the thrill of putting ideas on a page. Training for a race? Enjoy the months of training. The chances are high that your race will go better if you are thinking less about a time goal and more about enjoying the process.
Science has our back on this one. Studies find that people persist better when they are focusing on the process of exercise itself vs. the instrumental goals of a workout (placing in a race, losing a certain amount of weight).
This whole process vs. instrumental goal focus holds true everywhere in life. Love the process, and the outcome will take care of itself, or not. If you don’t reach your goal or it doesn’t conform to expectations, so what? Don’t resent the disappointment. If the process was enjoyable, then you will want to try again. Life rarely serves us our goals on silver platters. Persistence and effort are the hallmarks of any achievement, and they are all about process. That’s where we should place our attention.
Mindfulness (which we have embarked on in this course) is one of the richest examples of this. The most spectacular triple-flip trick we undertake in being mindful is this: to be mindful without a particular goal. To be mindful without intending an outcome. To be mindful for its own sake. To notice.
The catch? In those tiny moments when we are able to let go of a desired result, those are the moments we will feel the deepest effects of our practice. In the pause of letting go, we find not only a brief reprieve from the emotional chaos of the world but also the nourishment to engage in the process with a fresher, lighter, more grounded spirit.
Meditate on Fear
Goals are daunting. We might fail. Letting go of the outcome to focus on the process can be a free fall. A pit opens in the bottom of our stomach. We are one long silent scream. All of us are filled with fear most of the time: tiny and enormous. We have been conditioned to control, suppress, ignore, and generally dislike our fears.
With this meditation, I invite you to have a conversation with Fear.
Begin in a seated position on a chair or meditation cushion. Make sure your spine is straight and easeful, your head stacked on top of your spine, your shoulder blades moving toward each other lightly, and shoulders relaxed.
Close your eyes. Take five deep breaths through your nose. Release each breath audibly through your mouth. Relax into your normal breathing. Begin by inviting Fear to tell you what’s on their mind. Let them speak as a third person. They might say, for example, “I fear that I’m unprepared for my meeting. I fear that my left knee isn’t going to stop hurting. I fear that people are secretly laughing at my new haircut.” They might be hard to hear at first. They might speak to you through physical sensations. Keep listening. Gently ask again, “Fear, tell me how you are today.”
Take as much time as you want. Ideally, this meditation will be at least ten minutes. Short on time? One minute is better than nothing. Come back to the meditation later. Once you’ve invited Fear to speak their mind, you may find that they will speak to you about their fears as they arise, whether you are meditating or not.
Tomorrow, we will dive into balance, one of the cruxes of embodied mindfulness, and explore how dynamic balance really is.
Notice the day!
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