Example: You want to save for a vacation, but the only way to do it is to work overtime for a few of months. Every extra shift you take, every extra hour you work, when you could be home with your kids, off with your friends, sleeping in, or otherwise enjoying the fruits of your labor, is done for the sake of that fabulous vacation.
This is at the heart of achieving something. Set a goal, lay out the steps it’ll take to get there, and follow them methodically – whether they’re “fun” or not. There’s only one hitch. If you’re only able to focus on the goal in order to get through the work, you can be pretty miserable along the way. If focusing on the goal is not the answer, what is? The answer is focusing completely on the steps. Whether you think you like them or not.
There is a concept in Zen called “goalless aims.” It refers to doing something completely for its own sake, even if it originally had a goal in mind. We all wash dishes so that we have clean ones to eat off of, right? It’s clear the task has a concrete goal. But what if you were able to wash dishes and just be washing dishes? Not so there are clean ones and not so you can be done? In simply doing it, the need to be “done” has a chance to fall away, and the ability to be present shows up.
In this state, you become completely absorbed. In this state ego and time concerns fall away. It is in this state that you are at your happiest. To arrive there, you have to surrender the goal and just be. You will be taking the steps to achieve a goal, but you will be involved completely with them alone, doing them for their own sake.
At times it happens naturally. If you’ve ever had the experience of “time flying” or being “in the zone” you’ve been in this state. When you’ve decided you don’t like something, you’ll have to work to actually choose to be in this state, turning away from complaints and back to the task at hand. You may only be able to do it for a few seconds when you start. It takes practice, but it can be learned.
Life isn’t always going to be vacations and best friend’s weddings. Sometimes it’s spreadsheets and scraping poop off your shoes. But it’s all your life. Live it or don’t. But you don’t get another one. Being present means not a moment of your life is wasted.
Michael Stanwyck Sep 22, 2014