I have seen many posts and articles in the last month about making goals and achieving success. As we stand at the beginning of a new year, I would like to take this opportunity for a ‘fresh start’ a little deeper. I’ll take you step by step through a mindfulness practice to help you identify and achieve what I call your “Ultimate Goals.” I’ll also show you how this practice is a key to creating lasting happiness and fulfillment.
Step 1 ~ Identify Your Concrete Goals
Let me explain what I mean by ‘concrete goals’. These are any outward, action oriented changes you’d like to make. Someone looking at your life would be able to easily recognize the results of achieving these goals.
Think about the concrete things you would like to change in your life. Is it creating more time for yourself? Losing weight? Exercising more? Achieving a business goal? Make a list of whatever it is you want to change or add to your life.
Step 2 ~ Identify Your Ultimate Goal(s)
What I mean by ‘ultimate goal’ is any feeling state you are wanting to cultivate. You see, the real reason why we do anything is to feel better. This second step gets at the true needs underlying and driving your behaviour, and helps make these needs conscious. No matter what you accomplish in your lifetime, none of it matters if you don’t feel good! Our feeling state is an important place to focus our attention for any self improvement. Paying attention to your feelings (as opposed to your thoughts) is also a great way to connect to your intuition.
Go through each item you listed in step 1, and imagine how your life would be better if you achieved that one thing. Take some time with this step. How would you feel? Why do you want that particular change? Write down the reasons why for each item.
Try to distill your ‘why’ list down to a maximum of 3 feeling words. They should be positive, light-filled words – eg peace, connection, harmony, joy. These words (or single word) will now become your yardstick against which you measure each of your actions for the rest of the year. Write the words on a piece of paper and put them on your bathroom mirror, your fridge, in your car – wherever you’re going to see them through the day.
Step 3 ~ Mindfulness Practice — “Is what I’m about to do going toward or away from my ultimate goal?”
This is the question you will ask yourself throughout every day. Practice being mindful that every single action is carried out with your ultimate goal(s) in mind – even those things which aren’t directly related to your concrete goals. In other words, if the underlying reason behind your concrete goal is to feel more inner peace, then be mindful that every decision you make, and action you take, is fostering inner peace in that very moment.
You may struggle with this at first, forgetting to ask the question. You can keep a diary describing how your decisions and actions were guided by this question. This will help you increase your awareness daily, and slowly you’ll find that the question becomes part you, and rather automatic.
Flexibility is Encouraged
This approach gives you space to change your concrete goals midstream. Sometimes we want something concrete because we think it will make us happy, or give us inner peace, or whatever our ultimate goal is. But sometimes what we think will give us that inner peace is not really what we need. Or perhaps it is not necessary. Or perhaps there is something else out there that is a better fit for us, and would give us inner peace in an even more wonderful way! Try to be open to new ideas and ‘course corrections’ as you move through this year.
When you set your intention to foster a positive inner feeling state, the universe will surprise you and support you in many ways. You’re job is to keep open and flexible.
Self-Compassion is Encouraged
Be gentle with yourself as you work with this mindfulness practice. This is a life long practice! I love Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements”. One of the agreements is ‘Always Do Your Best’. He fills out this agreement by explaining that “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.” There is much wisdom in this self-compassionate approach to living. We all do our best with what we have. This rule for living is a good one to hang onto as you strive toward your goals this coming year – especially if you’re a perfectionist!
Setting You Up for Success!
There is a built in bonus to this practice. Even if you don’t complete your concrete goals, as long as you allow this question to guide your daily life, you will still be making steady progress toward your ultimate goal! It’s a guaranteed success story! How can I say that? Because I know that this path of working toward these ultimate goals is never ending. It’s the most important work in life, and it’s all achieved in small, doable steps – one decision, one action, one day at a time. All that matters is that you’re on the path!
My purpose in sharing this mindfulness practice is to help you lay the groundwork for true happiness and fulfillment in 2018 (and beyond)! This is achieved by defining success not by what concrete goals you’ve accomplished (doing), but how you feel (being) in each moment. This is a contemplative, inner approach to self improvement. It is a much less tangible goal, but far more rewarding and all encompassing. It will impact your well-being in every facet of your life, as well as the happiness and well being of those whose lives you touch in the coming year.
“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.” ~Sri Ramana Maharshi