Finite goals are wonderful because you can set them, work on them, complete them, and check them off your list. You feel good because you’ve accomplished something and it doesn’t necessarily matter what it is. I have friends who make lists just because the like the feeling of crossing things off. Its visual proof of progress.
Society gives us a list of goals to keep us busy. Complete each grade in school. Make this sports team or that club. Earn this scholarship or that award. Get into this school or a job with that company. Buy a house with this many rooms and own that many cars. Have this many kids and join that many boards. Each of these finite goals gives us temporary satisfaction and enjoyment so we keep setting new ones.
Now meditation has brought into question the value of these types of goals. Why work hard to acquire something that’s going to rapidly lose meaning and pass away? It reminds me of quote, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it,” by Greg Anderson. We’ve all heard some variation of this a hundred times in our life but we keep ignoring them because it’s easier to live in the future or past than to live in the present. To enjoy the journey, you need to be in the present. If you’re in the present all past accomplishments and future goals are meaningless distractions.
So meditation keeps bringing me back to the present where all of my easy goals have disintegrated to be replaced by endless goals like to be more aware, equanimous, loving, peaceful, and present. There are no check marks. Just an endless continuum along the path to the fantasy of enlightenment. How do I stay motivated for that?
There is progress on this path but it’s unpredictable. Advancements arrive on their own schedule and they’re often in a direction you didn’t know you needed to travel. I can’t write those goals down on a piece of paper and check them off one by one. The rewards on this path are better than any other rewards I’ve ever received but I need to take the concept of goals out of my vocabulary to stay present on the path.