In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider very simply is, “What do I want to come of this? What is it for?” The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning of any course of action because the goal is what will determine the outcome. For most of us, we forget this step and the reverse is true; the situation becomes the determiner of the outcome, which can be anything.
Often we are aware of what we don’t want but don’t have a positive goal for what we do want. Without a clear-cut, positive goal set at the beginning, life just seems to happen and makes no sense until it has already occurred. Only when it’s over do you look back and try to piece together what it must have meant or how you felt about it and the consequences you experienced. This is because no conscious goal was set with which to bring the means in line. Then, the situation has only the meaning you assign to it. You are left to decide, “Do I like this experience or not?”
The value of deciding ahead of time what you want to happen is that you will then see the situation as a means to make it hap- pen. You’ll make every effort to overlook whatever interferes with the goal and concentrate on everything that helps you meet it. In this way, situations you face will have meaning because the goal has made it meaningful.
Recently, I saw a demonstration in which a facilitator asked us to observe a video of six people, three dressed in black and three dressed in white, who were passing several basketballs. Our goal was to count the number of times a basketball was passed between the players dressed in white. After doing the exercise, we viewed the video again, watching it without this goal. To my amazement, I noticed that a man in an ape suit had walked into and out of the scene.
One major point of this demonstration is to illustrate the reality of perceptual blindness. If we’re looking for what holds specific meaning to us, we filter out other information. While we could look at the need to recognize our limitations or blind spots in any situation, this exercise also demonstrates the power of our minds to focus on what matters to our goal and become single- minded in service to it.
Added to this is the fact that we are never truly operating in a void. When we’re not conscious and intentional in choosing a goal, we’re then at the mercy of subconscious individual or collective limiting beliefs and goals that don’t always serve others or us. Then we feel at the whim of circumstances, and believe our situations bring us our experiences rather than the truth that we are always creating our reality.
To live intentionally, I suggest several steps. First, acknowledge to yourself that you don’t always know what’s in your best interest. In a state of humility, this opens you to consider with- out attachment what may be best. Next, consider various situations in your day and notice any multiple and conflicting goals. You may see, for example, “I would like to relax but I also want to get a lot done. I want to be with people but I want time alone.”
Recognize the truth, “I’m not sure I know what’s in my best interest.” Keep asking, “What do I most want to come of this? What is it for?” Then, when you have a sense of clarity, choose your intention. State it to yourself. Keep it in mind throughout the period of time you need to remember it.
When we set a goal and focus on it, we see our role and the role of the present moment as aligned in such a way that we then experience peace, no matter how challenging the situation we may face. The situation feels holistic to us because a path becomes evident and answers become simple. We then are aligned in a way that is responsible and accountable, and in which we make meaningful contributions. We experience ourselves as co-creators, purposeful and self-determining.
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As published nationally in Women’s Journals, December 2008