Sunday, April 29, 9956

Goal Orientation

The way we have all come to view life is as a temporal thing with discrete objects that we must pursue. We are thus very goal-oriented; we pursue things in a game of cause and effect, either succeed or fail, and feel elation or frustration depending on the outcome.

Goal orientation is a guaranteed formula for perpetual dissatisfaction. Until a goal is achieved, there is the nagging feeling that we are not where we want to be. Even if we manage to achieve our goal, there is only temporary gratification; it soon wears off because goal orientation makes us dependent upon achieving goals, so we cannot live the rest of our life satisfied with a single victory. We then need to set a new goal, which starts the cycle of dissatisfaction over.

Beyond this game is the Eternal: the uncaused, that which is always present, with no need to pursue or attain anything. It is our true self. Becoming aware of this, which is an essential part of enlightenment, is something that cannot be attained via pursuit, for any form of pursuit is goal-oriented behavior, which is part of the temporal, cause‑and‑effect way of being, which is, by definition, not enlightenment.

So, how do we become enlightened or realize our true self? By ceasing the cycle of desire, pursuit, success/failure, and emotional reactions. We do not cease this by trying to cease it (for that is pursuit), but by seeing that the idea that we must achieve certain goals in order to be valuable beings is absurd. We are not compelled to desire or do anything, and so we can not-desire and not-do. This is how we find ourselves and stop torturing ourselves with desire, worry, and frustration.

Easier said than done. Someone who is poor and/or homeless is compelled to obtain food and shelter (by working, begging, or stealing). Someone who is being attacked is compelled to fight or flee. How can they not desire?

These extreme situations involve need, not desire. There is a big difference. When there is an urgent need, we are sort of taken along for a ride as we act from deep within ourselves, pushed by our need, without necessarily thinking or worrying. Desire comes not from urgent need but from a thought process in which we seek to expand ourselves by achieving goals. This can be painful. Not that unmet needs aren’t painful, but they are painful in a different way. Unmet needs cause physical sensations such as cold, hunger, and injury, which are usually beyond our control. Unmet desires cause emotional sensations such as worry and frustration, which are self-inflicted.

So, in the absence of need, we (i.e., our egos) create desire for things that we do not need (goals), and this is the source of most of our suffering. Thus the false self keeps us from finding our true self. We believe that we need certain externals, identify with them, regret or worry about their loss, and all the while completely ignore who we really are. We enslave ourselves to a mental fabrication and live in a constant state of compulsion.

The true self does not need to set goals and then achieve them in order to feel that it has worth. If there is nothing it specifically needs, it can enjoy simply being. If there is something it believes is worthwhile pursuing, it moves toward it and enjoys doing so, and does not limit its idea of success to achieving a specific milestone. For example, let’s say our body becomes overweight. If we live via our ego, we will set a goal of losing, say, 30 pounds, make our sense of satisfaction dependent upon that specific goal, and feel unsatisfied until we reach it, which could be six months, a year, or the rest of our life. Our true self, instead of focusing on a specific number of pounds to lose, will focus only on eating right and exercising. This enables us to feel good every day about our healthful diet, our training in the gym, and how much better our body feels and looks, regardless of how much weight we’ve actually lost. That is success.