When it comes to goal setting, there are tons of books, seminars, and courses out there. Everyone has a different take on how to set goals.
Most experts will tell you to set goals for your business, career, relationships, health, spirituality, and contributions in the community. They will tell you that without goals, you will not succeed.
They will tell you that people who write down their goals are much more likely to succeed with them. Write your goal in the present tense, they say, as if you have already achieved it! It tricks your mind into thinking you already have the goal.
Others promote setting SMART goals. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. As an example, “my goal is to make $5,000 more than I make right now, by July 31st of this year by working a part time job close to home.” Very smart.
These are all great tactics for goal setting, and experts are probably right that writing out your goal and reminding yourself about it everyday helps in attaining them.
The biggest issue with these tactics is that they ignore the real problem: even when we achieve most of our goals, we are still as unhappy as before.
I saw a fantastic video the other day from some contemporary celebrities who talk about this:
You may not care about these people, but their lesson still stands. When we set external goals, we grow externally, but remain unfulfilled within.
Of course there is nothing wrong with setting a goal to get that great career, or lose your weight, or anything like that. The problem is the motivation behind it is half-baked. We think we’ll be happy when we achieve this goal. From the experience of millions of people throughout history (including some people in the video above), you probably won’t.
A Different Goal
Throughout my life, I’ve been lucky enough to surround myself with amazing people. The most important two figures have been Pramukh Swami Maharaj, and Mahant Swami Maharaj. Sadly, they have been mostly unheard of by people in the Western world, but their wisdom and impact has touched the lives of millions including presidents, scientists, artists, community activities, teachers, business tycoons, and regular folk.
Aside: You can read more about my story here.
They have taught me that life is a cycle of ups and downs. Sometimes, we win, and sometimes we lose. We must remain stable throughout it all. How can we hold onto something that constantly changes for happiness? Our happiness also becomes temporary when we do that!
That which is temporary is not real, and that which is real is not temporary.
It is much better to centre our lives on that which is permanent. To that which does not change.
What can that one thing be?
Goal Setting in Reality
If we commit to goal setting in the world of reality (that which is permanent), we must set the direction of life to conquer our own minds. Every external achievement is accomplished by honing the mind. We experience all the ups and downs of life in the mind. So, if we work on conquering the mind, we can accomplish wonders.
This is the goal that will give us happiness. This is the goal that will help us be our best selves. Peace and stability will be found in making self-mastery the goal.
The external stuff will change. Identify with that which is unchanging, and we will win the game of life.