Do Goals Create A Painful Reality Gap?

Something I’m experiencing in my life right now is a tension, or gap, between my life as it currently is, and my life as I would wish it to be. My life is fine, but there are a few things I’d like to change work-wise which I believe will give me more freedom. What I’m learning is that having ‘goals’ can be a bit of a minefield if you’re also trying to live a mindful, present life.

Goals, which are inherently future-centered, can make you painfully aware of the gap in reality between your current state and where you want to be. That can lead to feeling even more discontented with the current moment, which is no way to go about life!  The trap is that you can end up feeling that you’ll only be happy when you’ve achieved x, y and z, and therefore, you stop being happy now.

For some people, discontent may be a motivator, but it doesn’t have to be. You can still achieve things and work toward different outcomes while remaining present, mindful, and at the very least, content.

Mostly we have goals because we think they will make us happier, more free etc. You know, “I’ll be free when I make x amount of money per year”; “I’ll be happy when I get a promotion”, and so on. This type of thinking implies that where we are right now is not good enough. So the more you think of your goal, the more annoyed you become with the present.

So I think the key is realizing that everything is now.  That in this present moment, you can choose to feel happy, liberated etc, no matter your life circumstances. In one of his audio programs,(I think it’s Living The Liberated Life)  Eckhart Tolle says that the quickest way out of your current situation is to actually more fully and deeply present to it, to bring a new consciousness to it. You won’t get trapped in this problematic moment, but rather you will connect with a deeper power and be able to transform the circumstance. As you think about your goals, you have to see and feel yourself living that reality as if it were now. If you are always striving for something, the reality of having it will always seem elusive. Having determined what future outcome you would like, and what steps you can take that will help you get there, you must then take those actions, but with mindfulness and presence, so that they are infused with real power.

Do you find goals helpful? Or distracting? How do you balance present moment happiness with creating change for the future?

Useful reading:
Illuminated Mind – Do Your Goals Improve The Present?

3 thoughts on “Do Goals Create A Painful Reality Gap?

  1. I don’t make long term goals any more.
    But I often set “mini goals”, like tomorrow I will get up 2 hours earlier and work on my real passion before heading out for work etc.
    I know it sounds more like a task but since I try to live my life at daily basis it became the only bone I am chasing now 😉

  2. Hey Sandy – I like the idea of “mini goals”. It seems that building on such mini – goals is a great way to make long term changes. BTW, about 1 year ago, I too started getting up 2 hours earlier every day to meditate and work on passion projects, and it’s made such a huge difference in my life.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Have recently found Eckart and his teachings really resonate with me. Not that I have this being present thing totally wrapped up–I am working on it right NOW.

    Really like your blog and am glad that I stumbled upon it.

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