There’s a built-in danger in goal setting. What is it? It’s believing we’ll only be happy when we reach those goals. We tell ourselves, ‘When I graduate, get a job, own a home, get married, have children,’ and so on, so we keep postponing life.
A university professor tells of being invited to speak at a military base and meeting a soldier named Ralph at the airport. After they introduced themselves, they headed towards baggage claim. As they walked down the concourse Ralph kept disappearing, once to help an older woman whose suitcase had fallen open, once to lift up two toddlers so they could see Santa Claus, and again to give directions to someone who was lost. Each time he came back with a big smile on his face.
“Where did you learn to live like that?” the professor asked.
“Oh,” Ralph said, “during the war, I guess.”
Then he told the professor about his last tour of duty, how it was his job to detect mines, and how he watched his friends blown up before his eyes, one after another.
“I learned to live between steps,” he said. “I never knew whether the next step would be my last, so I learned to get everything I could out of the moment between when I picked up my foot and put it down again. Every step I took was a whole new world and I guess I’ve been living that way ever since.”
Ralph had it right!
If the purpose of goal-setting is limited to giving a particular direction to life, then it is harmless. But if one gets obsessed with the goal and meeting the deadlines to achieve it, then it is a sure shot recipe for disaster. The result is anxiety, tension, stress, frustration, depression, paranoia, etc. It takes life out of living, it takes joy out of living. More than the goal, the journey is important. If one doesn’t enjoy the journey towards the goal, then the goal is not worth it.
The only purpose of human life is to attain eternal happiness. The bottom line in any business at the end of the day is profit, irrespective of the number, type and volume of transactions one does. So also, in the business of living, what counts at the end of the day is whether we are happy or not. We should refrain from any activity that takes away the joy of living.
To get the most out of living we must live by the Scripture: “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
The past is history.
The future is a mystery.
The “present” is a gift from God.
We must learn to respect our “present”.
If we would like to have the attitude of Ralph, then we should not wait for tomorrow, we should start from today, no, now itself!
Life is neither lived in the past nor in the future. Life is lived dynamically only in the present moment.
Living in the present moment means conscious action with full awareness, not mechanical movements.