Around this time of year, many people will take stock of their lives and choose some New Years Resolutions. And before too long, they will realize they’ve failed at most of them. There is a better way. One that better reflects who you are, why you’re here and how this all works anyway.
Most of the problems we have with resolutions and goals in general come down to a mismatch between these things. If we don’t know who, why and how, when will the what’s be suitable?
For the last few hundred years, our world view has been dominated by the idea that the world is a machine and human experience is a side effect of biological processes. As we have gone deeper into the ways of the world, we have begun to discover the “ghost in the machine”. Rather than consciousness being a feedback loop for the world, we are rediscovering the world is a feedback loop for consciousness. In other words, the world arises in consciousness, not the other way around.
You are that consciousness that contains the world. Thus, you are co-creating what is. This may not be your experience yet, but if you allow for it, you’ll find the process more effective.
As I spoke of in more detail in Expressing Purpose, there are specific reasons why you are here having these experiences. There is the broader purpose to awaken to Who we are, as above. As silence can only know Itself through experiences, there is also a specific reason you are here. The specific experiences you have. There is a person awakening to Self and Self awakening to Itself. (this is actually the same thing but is experienced as different stages of the process)
Finding purpose is most easily done by asking yourself what you love. Make a series of “I Love” or “I really Enjoy” statements and you’ll soon see a theme. You may also ask things like “What am I really good at?” and “What brings me satisfaction?” You can use the Process outlined below to find purpose, then use it again for goals. ‘I Am’ statements are your purpose. For example, “I am a teacher” or “I am a healer”. This leads to our roles in life and, through identification, our ego identity. It may seem counter-productive to give attention to identity but making this more conscious does help. In the awakening process, the person falls away, but why you’re here remains.
‘I Will’ statements are your Mission. “I will lead people in the great outdoors” or “I will help people heal cancer”. This is the driver or passion itself, the vehicle of purpose. Your Vision is how it will be expressed, the form it will take or the How.
How consciousness arises from silence is very abstract. How consciousness becomes form is only a little less so. At some point, it will be your experience. In the meantime, we can focus on a couple of key points.
Intention is what gives consciousness direction or focus. And awareness is what sustains it and gives it structure. In other words, things manifest from intention and attention. Remember that energy is neither created nor destroyed. It merely changes form. What changes it? You guessed it. Numerous physics experiments are illustrating this clearly.
Thus, we want to use attention and intention as our main tools.
What prevents energy from changing? Stronger attention. We’ll experience this as resistance, a holding or grip. The best metaphor to use here is water. Water (and energy) flows through the path of least resistance. That is the direction attention is in.
If your attention results in synchronicity and progress, you know you’re on the right track. You are in the flow. But it’s more effective to learn to “feel” your way. Feelings are what I call those impulses beneath thoughts and emotions. They can seem vague at first but if we learn to pay attention to how we’re responding to events, we not only learn to see past our dramas, we also begin to tune into the subtler non-verbal signals.
If we’re not on the right track, we’ll experience resistance. Things won’t go as well. If we can feel, we’ll feel the resistance inside. That resistance comes in 2 forms – our own resistance and group resistance. As we are all consciousness, both forms can be experienced internally.
That’s a key point. You are not in this alone. “No Man is an Island” as John Donne put it. Everything is always in relationship to everything and everyone else. Consciousness is not divided. How do we work with the group, with what is? By keeping our goals always in context of others.
Sometimes, we will meet some resistance even though we know it’s the right direction, arising directly from purpose. This is where some additional effort and momentum may be required to overcome group inertia. Or some past consequences. Or we’ll need some patience until the time is right. Don’t try or force. That is just another form of resistance. Just increase the power of intention. This is where our passion, our I Will statement comes in. Don’t try to figure it all out. The laws of action are simple but the field of action is infinite.
Because what you put your attention on grows stronger, your goals should be what you want, not what you don’t want. For example “Lose Weight” is putting your attention on what you don’t want. This builds conflict into your goals.
If you are not clear on who you are and why you’re here, you may also be inclined to have “Should” goals. Not things you want but rather things you think you should want. Again, these may create internal conflict. Just consider this clutter and toss ’em out.
With this in mind, the actual process of goal setting is simple. Prepare the ground, plant the seed, then tend the soil, leaving the seed alone.
“Well begun is half done” as Aristotle once said. “Ask and it shall be given to you” as the Bible put it.
The key to setting goals is to create the right starting point.
1 – Open. Prepare the ground to feel. Have a quiet time, meditate, do what brings you quiet so you can hear. 10 or 15 minutes is good.
2 – Contemplate. Continuing in that silence, ask “What do I love?” “What do I want?” Explore, listen. See what arises. What are the dreams, desires, drives, and fears that come up? Don’t reject anything. See them.
3 – Write, on 2 separate sheets or lists:
a – I Love and I Want statements, affirmative & positive. These are your goals. Focus on the important ones.
b – Obstacles – where you feel resistance. This may arise as fear, doubt, or other “negative” emotions. Ask yourself if you believe you can, then follow the emotions.
There may be external obstacles like resources that come up. These are steps, not personal obstacles. What are the feeling values they evoke? Those are your obstacles.
If you have “I don’t want” statements, flip it to what you do want and separate out the obstacles.
4 – Affirm – visualize your goals. Draw pictures, cut out images from magazines or find pictures in Google Image Search to create a vision board or slide show. Give them your emotional energy, your passion.
If you have trouble with buy-in, make a list of benefits. Why statements. If there is still resistance, go into that. This may not be the right goal or you may have another internal obstacle that’s coming to light.
5 – Release – burn, shred or otherwise destroy your list of personal obstacles. You can make a ceremony of it if you like.
Let go of the goals too – feel passion but be careful about your own resistance or holding. It cannot progress easily if you hold them to rigidly. Remember to tend the soil, not the seed. Treat it like a game.
6 – Step – What is the next step to take. Do It. This is the What and When. For big goals, there may not be an obvious how. And you may need a plan, like a business plan or flow chart. But the idea of a plan is an overview. Don’t get caught in details. They are often not clear until further in. Plan if that gives you a handle on it but focus on the next step. If you are unclear on the next step, repeat the process above or Share.
7 – Share – What do I need? Who do I need? Tell people about your goals – you may be surprised who knows how and who. People want to help. This also gets group intention on your side. You can never do it alone. If you have friends who habitually discount everything, don’t share it with them. They will just give you more things to release. Don’t have supportive friends? Maybe that’s a goal. Never underestimate the power of group intention. It runs politics, the economy, and society in general.
8 – Observe – pay attention to what happens now, inside and out. Don’t read things into it, just see what happens. How do you feel? Are you procrastinating? How are the results? Tune your goals as they get clearer, then take the next step. Then another. Life is about the journey, not the result.
This is the art of Engagement. How to bring our passion to life without being trapped in it. How to be in the world but not of it. How to play the game of life. And that is the value of awakening. We can only fully avoid being trapped when we have ceased to identify with our experiences. But the exercise of observation can bring us closer to ourselves. And to our dreams.