Living a pretty unstructured life right now is allowing me to explore the concept of life in ways that I never allowed myself to explore. There is a fine line I find myself traversing between over thinking things vs. actually having an epiphany. What’s most interesting to me is that we don’t talk about stuff like this more often. I kind of feel cheated that I went through almost all my education without being forced to think critically about life, but maybe I’ll save that discussion for another post.
One area that I’ve spent a lot of time exploring intellectually and experientially has been present moment living and making goals/plans. For a while, I thought these two concepts were mutually exclusive. Isn’t setting goals/plans rooted in the non-acceptance of the moment at hand, a way to evade the present moment? How can we aspire towards something we want in our life, while fully accepting the moment we are in?
I thought that Buddhist teachings encouraged complacency, and that any desire was rooted in falsehood. After a lot of experimentation and reading up on Buddhism & desire I have a different outlook on integrating your goals with present moment living. I now feel that the true art of living is to have a plan in place that fills you with energy and inspires you in the moment, BUT knowing that the end result isn’t important.
There isn’t an exact formula for doing this and it requires a lot of self awareness. You have to be mindful of what your goals are rooted in. In the past I’ve set goals rooted purely in the end result, like working on projects that I didn’t resonate with, but worked on because I believed the opportunity would lead to better things. Living with this mentality was a perpetuation of the mindset I learned since I was a kid and reaffirmed by my formal education.
Forcing myself to work on things that I didn’t enjoy just for the possibility of a better future ended up leaving me drained and pretty pessimistic about the point of life. I also found that there was never a terminal point to any of this, there wasn’t a point where I’ve been like cool I made it I’m here, now I can just enjoy this moment. This constant sacrificing for this esoteric vision is the default way I think a lot of us live.
Seeing the impermanence of everything in my own life and in the lives of my closest friends reminds me of the importance of making sure that our goals allow us to feel more engaged and appreciative of this moment. I’ve personally witnessed how a “sure thing” can crumble right before my eyes. I’ve seen how health issues can deteriorate whatever master plan we’re working towards. In the most extreme case, if we spend our entire lives working towards a future vision, a huge earthquake could crush everything we’ve known to be true in a second. There is way too much variance in life, and if our lives are only directed towards a future point I’m realizing that it will never come, and if it does come there are a million other things that could happen which could cause an abrupt change.
Instead of living in this way, we could set goals and plans that leave us feeling awesome in the moment. For example, I’m pretty passionate about how to infuse well-being into day to day living. I’m working on my own ideas for a type of product that could help people do this. This project is allowing me to develop some basic programming, design, and user experience skills. Everyday I get to work on this idea and learn something new and it leaves me feeling inspired. Regardless of whether this project manifests into something bigger, I just enjoy spending my days thinking about these ideas and learning something new. This is a goal I could say with some level of certainty makes the present moment more enjoyable.
Another example a lot of people could relate to are health & fitness goals. I think there are some people who set these goals purely for the end-result to look a certain way. When I first started taking my health seriously back in college I probably fell into that bucket. Although it would be nice to be stronger and look more fit, the main reason I set health & fitness goals is because it just leaves me feeling awesome in the moment. My days flow much better and I feel way more alive on the days that I exercise. If someone told me regardless of how much I exercise I would look the same, I would still do it without a doubt.
I say all of this knowing that there are practicalities to life, and at times we have to engage in activities that may not enhance the moment. But as I continue to experiment with shifting how I think about my goals, I’m finding that I’m more inspired every day. This is having the nice side effect of leading to more opportunities, which I believe will allow me to fulfill those practicalities in life in a more empowered way. Instead of trying to change all your goals/plans start with something small, maybe make a promise to yourself that whatever project you work on next will be rooted in enhancing the moment and just see what happens.
The key is to live with a plan in mind, but die to it in every moment.