Nobody wants to suffer. We all want to be happy and have joy and fulfillment in our life. Yet because we are too busy to find even a moment’s peace, usually we don’t live with an awareness of this original intention. We lose sight of our true goals, so our life activities become dictated by outside forces rather than the desires of our own heart.
For many people this living out of synch with our true purpose can be a primary source of anxiety. Many of us are living a life not of our choosing, and this causes us great frustration and anxiety on a ongoing basis. Once we’re stuck in that groove it can be difficult to find our way out because our vision is blocked by obligations and the burden of just getting through the week.
How many times have you actually sat down and asked yourself, “What am I doing with my life, and where is this all leading me?”
Taking a Fresh Perspective
What’s needed is for us to step back and take a fresh perspective. We need to look at what we’re doing with our life and make an honest assessment of whether it’s going to produce the kinds of results we really want. And if not, are we going continue in this way or are we going to make some changes?
What are your goals in life? What is your special version of the happiness that you seek? And beyond that, are you living your life in a way that is moving you in that direction? If not, what changes can you make so that your day to day activities are more in synch with your desires and goals?
Below is a process will help you answer these questions. First though let’s look at what we can do about some of the resistance we may encounter during the process.
Working with Resistance
It’s possible that you may experience various types of resistance to this process of viewing your goals and your activities. Here is a look at some of the ways resistance might show up:
- One form of resistance is feeling overwhelmed when you see how out of synch you’ve become. We know something is out of balance, but when we look more closely we see how and why and to what degree, which can be painful to realize.
- Another form of resistance may be that you feel some kind of burden about all the work you’d have to do to get your life more on track. It may seem like too much, that you’d have to undergo a personal revolution and completely remake your life. However, creating a big drama of drastic change isn’t the point, and it doesn’t work anyway. It’s like crash diets, which are impossible to sustain. Rather the idea here is first to see clearly, and then with that clarity you can make gradual, doable changes over time, changes that will feel good to make rather than feeling like a strain and duty. • You may also resist this process because of certain beliefs and resolves you have about the nature of life and of change. It’s pos- sible you’ve come to adopt a fatalistic attitude, thinking that you can’t really do anything to change your situation in life.
- Or perhaps you feel like you’ve been down this road of hope before, and you don’t want to set yourself up again for more disappointment. Maybe you have given up any hope that it’s possible to experience fulllment in life, thinking, “It’s natural that we suffer, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” But these mental attitudes simply aren’t true, and the only thing actually preventing us from moving forward towards a more fulfilling life is a belief that it’s not possible. Without any doubt, we definitely can raise our gaze out of dead end thinking into a more positive vision of life, and we can work towards our vision, gradually uplifting our self and our situation.
- Another possible obstacle you may encounter is that deep inside you feel you’re a bad person, and not deserving of happiness and satisfaction. Your self esteem may be so low that you feel there’s no point in even trying for improvement. If this is the case, try and remember that regardless of how badly you may feel about yourself, these are only beliefs that you carry, and that it’s possibly to gradually change your beliefs.
One of the most important questions we can ever ask ourself is, “What do I really want in my life?” Until we have asked and answered this fundamental question, we have no direction in our life, and without direction we feel at a loss for how to find basic ease of mind.
You are Fundamentally Good
Nobody is basically bad or flawed in any way; we just get hooked into temporary negative thought patterns. But the truth of the matter is that those patterns can loosen up and we can gradually become less dominated by them. Within each and every one of us there are endless possibilities for opening ourselves to less burdened and more uplifted states of mind. Sometimes we move forward in baby steps and sometimes in larger strides, but in any case we can do it.
Regardless of how hopelessly screwed up we may think ourselves to be, no- body is permanently downtrodden, and we can always better ourselves, we can always look up and improve our situation in life.
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition there was a famous saint named Milarepa, who is widely regarded as an enlightened saint and one of Tibet’s greatest teachers. An interesting thing about Milarepa is that he was once a murderer who had killed many dozens of people.
Some time later when he realized the profound harm he had in inflicted, Milarepa became overwhelmed with remorse, and dedicated his life to studying and practicing Buddhism to overcome the heavy negative consequences he had created for himself. Under the guidance of his spiritual teacher he stayed in strict retreat for many years, and eventually became a wise and compassionate saint who benefited many people with his teachings.
There is no negativity so heavy that it can’t be overcome, and no individual who is beyond hope. The only thing required is to decide that you can do it and to start. So let’s do exactly that right now.
The following four stage process will help you to: 1. Look at your life goals. 2. Look at how you are spending your time. 3. Examine whether how you are spending your time is helping you achieve your goals. 4. Look to see what improvements you can make. So let’s get started.
You’ll need a notebook, and about 30 minutes to one hour of time for each of the four steps of the process.
1. Looking at Life Goals
The first stage of the process is to look at your goals. What are you major goals in life? Below is a list of various life areas for you to consider. Think about each area and what you’d like to have happen in that part of your life. For now, don’t worry if any of your goals seem possible or not.
Thinking about goals can be difficult at first because our habitual approach has made us forget that actually, our life is full of possibility. So take your time and do the best you can. If you’re not sure about any of the areas, don’t worry about it and just let it go for now. You can always come back to it later if you are inspired to do so.
Think about and write your goals for the following areas:
- Work/livelihood, profession, and career
- Family and/or signicant relationships
- Friends and/or general social life
- Health and fitness
Take your time, and write out your answers in as generous and complete a manner as you can. Then move on to the second stage of the process.
2. How Do You Spend Your Time?
The second stage is to survey how you spend most of your time. Look at a typical day and write down what you normally do as part of your routine. Then extend that to your week and get a sense of your general weekly activities. Spend enough time mapping this out so you have a fairly clear picture.
3. Tallying Activities and Goals
The next stage is to see how much, if any, of your day to day activities sync up with your goals in the various life areas you looked at
a. Systematically go through each goal, and check to see if any of the activities you do each week is helping you move towards that goal.
b. Each time an activity syncs with one of your goals write it down in a sentence with a number beside it.
c. It’s possible you may have a number of sentences written at the end of this third stage, or it’s possible you may have none. Either way don’t worry. The point is that now you have a more clear picture, which prepares you for the last stage of the process, deciding what kinds of changes you want to make.
4. Synchronizing Activities and Goals
The final stage of this process is to look at your discoveries and assess how you can shape your activities to be more in accordance with your goals. What things can you do less of and what can you do more of? What can you let go of and what new things can you begin? The key here is to be completely realistic, and only take on what you will actually do and really want to do.
What improvements can you make that will not feel like a burden but will actually feel good? This is important because if it feels good than you will want to keep at it. So see what changes make sense, and then make a commitment to yourself to begin right away in reshaping your life towards how you actually want it to be.
Write down what you decide. Then make a loving comittment with your self, and get started right away with moving towards a life that is more of your own choosing.
We typically think we can’t change our situation. But this belief is simply a habitual way of thinking and is not grounded in reality. We can change. By looking a our life goals and our life activities, assessing how much our activities are in accordance with our goals, and by changing our activities to be more in alignment with our goals, we can gradually steer our life in a more true direction.