TL;DR: Life is a journey, not a destination. Make the most of your everyday tasks and activities.
I heard a concept this week by Srikuma Rao (a well known business professor) that kind of blew me away. I had a difficult time wrapping my head around it at the beginning, and it was only after looking at it from a mindfulness perspective that it made sense to me. Which is why I consider it an advanced mindfulness technique, but if you can wrap your head around it, you’re ahead of the game! Here it is:
Identify the goal you want to achieve, let it go, and invest wholeheartedly in the activities that will lead to that goal.
Say what? Let go of the goal? Won’t focusing on the activities keep me focused on the goal? What is this supposed to mean?
I had those same questions, and after thinking about it more, I came to the conclusion that his point was for us not to let the attainment of the end goal keep us from engaging fully in the means to that end, i.e. living in the moment. Since we’re trying to live mindfully and use our time intentionally, let’s look at it from that perspective:
After you’ve set a long-term goal and defined the actions to get to that goal (there are a lot of goal setting resources out there, and we’ll cover one in a future post) the point is to then detach yourself from the need for that goal to be attained before you enjoy life fully – remember our Be+Do=Have equation from a couple weeks ago? – and not treat the actions as the means to the end goal, but focus on them in the moment as if they were the goal. In other words, with intention, every activity becomes fully invested in and fully experienced.
Right now, all I have to do is get the most out of this moment.
For example, say your long-term goal was to lose 15 lbs and your activities included working out 4 days per week. The mindset shift would be “today my goal is to go to the gym and make it the best time possible”. Period. NOT “today my goal is to go to the gym, to lose weight“. Instead of constantly looking at an end goal somewhere in the arbitrary future, which may or may not happen, you can instead invest fully in these smaller activities, being intentionally present, making the activity as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. As with the gym, if it’s Monday and your activity includes working out, then you focus on that being it. That is your goal. The big kahuna. And your job is to be present and make it as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible.
Would you let yourself off the hook a little bit, and have more fun, if you untied the need to get to a destination from the activity you’ve defined as the path to getting there? (You may have to read that sentence a couple times, it’s deep.)
This comes back to the question in our last post of how you spend your mental time. Here’s one more way to be intentional with it – focusing your attention on the immediate moment, Instead of engaging in an activity half-heartedly, viewing it as a means to an end, being impatient, and thinking about what else you need to do to reach that end goal. Can you see ways in which to shift this in your own life? What if you moved to a mindset of “right now, all I have to do is get the most out of this moment”? Going to the grocery store could take on a whole new meaning.
- Conversations – How can you shift into being fully present in that moment, instead of thinking about how this conversation will impact a future goal (dating, business, networking, friendly lunch, etc)? Can you employ active listening while letting go of an outcome?
- Time with Friends/Family – What if your only job was to squeeze out every ounce of enjoyment that particular time had to offer, while not also thinking about all the other stuff you had to do?
- Eating Healthier – This could shift into an intention of being creative, enjoying the process of cooking and trying new recipes – as the goal itself – not just as a means of losing weight.
It’s almost as if the activities you’ve set out as the path to reach your long-term goal actually become the main goals themselves, with mini-activities attached to them, such as, 1. making the most of the moment, 2. making the moment as enjoyable as possible, 3. being fully present and engaged, etc.
Bonus: When you focus on the activity itself as a goal to fully invest in, it begins to alleviate the frustration, impatience, and guilt that can come from always looking at the end goal and thinking “why haven’t I gotten there yet”, or “it’s taking me too long”, etc. Imagine what you can accomplish in just this one moment?
What are some activities you engaged in this week, as a means to an end, that you could have applied this concept to?
Goal setting, developing mindfulness and being intentional with our time can be intimidating things to implement. We can show you how and support you all through the process. Contact us today for a complimentary coaching session.