You can only Reach your Goal if You Envisage it
Several thousand years ago the great sage Patanjali said:
“When you are inspired by an exalted goal or some extraordinary idea, all your thoughts begin to tear the shackles which confine them. Your mind exceeds its limits, your conscience pushes away the boundaries of your abilities in all directions and you begin living in a new large and beautiful world. Dormant powers, capabilities and talents come to life and you find yourself much greater than you have ever imagined.”
In ancient times the sages believed that an individual’s life starts from the moment one asks oneself: “Who am I? What is the meaning of my life? What do I live for?” Until then a human being merely leads the life of a refined animal; worrying only about eating, sleeping, copulating and self-defending.
It reminds me of an old joke:
“Doctor, am I going to live?”
“What’s the point?”
Therefore, the first thing we must do is to ask ourselves these questions and do our best to find the answers. Ayurveda asserts that our health comprises four constituent parts, and the World Health Organization quotes almost word for word the lines of the ancient Ayurvedic treatise, the Sushruta Samhita, defining health as full physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wellbeing. The third level is called Swastha (literally “established in oneself”), which is actually an intellectual or psychological level. At this level the person must answer the above mentioned questions; otherwise he cannot be healthy, happy and successful. This level is also considered to be the most important.
Of course, first of all, a person must understand profound philosophical questions on the creation of the Universe, the Creator and the nature of one’s true Self. A person should know the basic laws of this creation and have a clear understanding of their life’s purpose.
A Teacher once asked his disciple: “What is the most terrible tragedy of human life?”
“It might be that a person cannot find answers to his questions,” — answered the disciple.
“No, the tragedy is that he cannot find questions worth answering,” — replied the teacher.
Even ordinary people, uninterested in deep philosophical questions but wanting to be healthy and successful, must have a goal and understand clearly what they want from life.
The precise delineation of our wishes (in all spheres of life) is the main prerequisite for their accomplishment.
It is already generally recognized that our thoughts are at the basis of everything, i.e. by means of our thoughts and desires we create the reality around us. Desire is the most powerful force in our universe. “When a person totally dedicates himself to something, the course of the Universe changes to help him,” wrote Goethe.
According to statistics, slightly less than 3% of all the people in our society have achieved much more than all the others put together. One of the distinguishing features that set them apart from the rest was that they could see their goals clearly and were able to plan their life. To illustrate this issue, there was experiment in Harvard University in the U.S., initiated in 1953, where all the graduates were questioned about whether they had a life goal and how they aspired towards it. It turned out that less than 3% possessed concrete goals in life and had a clear understanding of what they want from life. By following the students’ success through the succeeding 25 years, it was found out that those very graduates succeeded in all aspects of life, much more than the rest taken as a whole.
This is completely understandable, as everything, from an enterprise to a construction project, is started from a business plan or a design. The more time we spend thoroughly thinking out each detail, the better the results will be. Who would want to live in a house designed in a hurry, or to drive a car made by a careless engineer? But unfortunately, we are even more careless about our life.
Practically none of us know exactly what we want from life. I can assert this with confidence, on the basis of consulting thousands of people, conducting different seminars, training sessions and lectures in many countries all over the world. I was really amazed to find these questions taking people by surprise, and even when someone did answer, it was immediately clear that they were not sincere and that the answers were not thought out. As a rule, the declared goals are either too materially minded or appear to be postulations memorized during the course of some spiritual practice. Only a few people said that their goal was love, and only a few successful businessmen had their life’s mission written on paper and knew what they wanted in life and how exactly to get it.
I also came across the other extreme: after taking some seminars and courses they had their plans written out across several pages. These included purchases of several villas in various parts of the world, a helicopter, a yacht, and so on. The only thing that was necessary to achieve this was to sell as many commodities of a particular company as possible.
Whether we like it or not, the law of this world is: if we do not write our own life script, someone else will do it for us.
1.1. Goals are the Primary Source of Energy
We get gross energy from food, but subtle energy is derived from enthusiasm, which appears due to the existence of higher goals. A person who is merely aimlessly floating in life cannot be happy, as we need to have meaning in our life. A meaningful life is a basic necessity of our soul, and having life’s goals can fill it with this meaningfulness. Helen Keller, a blind invalid since childhood, achieved a lot in life. When she was asked how she had always been able to be so happy in spite of being disabled, she replied:
“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
With these words she proved the ancient wisdom:
The eternal feeling of happiness consists of the continuous effort of reaching one’s goals and in the steadfast progress towards life’s ultimate goal.
In our civilization it is accepted belief that bodily comfort is the basic prerequisite for happiness, but what we require in reality is something to inspire and awaken enthusiasm within us. We must possess a goal worth living for, for which we should want to get up every morning. Additionally, having a goal in our life is powerful enough to relieve us from suffering. For example, a woman giving birth to her long-awaited child may fail to sense any pain during delivery. On the other hand, a person occupied with a meaningless job will be irritated by any trifle.
1.2. A Life’s Goal must be Inspiring and Divine
In order to energize us, our life’s goal should be something high, aimed at the well-being of the world, and somewhat… unattainable. The best choice (and the only correct one) is to achieve love for God, the Divine love. The consequences of this may include: accomplishing unity with God, breaking free of egoism, spreading the Divine love all over the world, bringing salvation, etc. To make the tasks more concrete, you may put them like this: find a remedy for an incurable disease, cause a culture revival in your nation, etc…
In this respect, if we establish our life’s ultimate purpose at a low level, then we subject our life to a great risk, as after attaining this temporary goal, your subconsciousness may tell you: “That’s it, you have attained everything you aimed for and there is no point in living further.” A person may then fall into a state of severe depression, become ill or even die. As a rule, even establishing a new temporary goal will not save us, as subconscious objectives cannot be changed within days. For example, if a person sets himself a goal: to uphold a doctor’s thesis, make a million, have a successful marriage, provide good education for one’s children etc., then upon attaining this goal a person runs into an energy wall and loses a taste for life. The most vivid example is of people whose career achievement is their life’s most important goal, who quickly fade away after losing their job.
“Truly rational people who have a philosophical cast of mind should endeavor only for that purposeful end which is unattainable no matter how hard one seeks across this Universe.” Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.18
1.3. Our Life Depends on the Level and Quality of Energies we Live on
The conclusions recently drawn by modern scientists are:
1. Everything around us, even our arm, is vibrating energy.
2. There is a law of attraction: we are attracted to things we think of.
It is obvious that the quality of our life depends on the level of energies we live on, which in turn depends on the level of our goals. For example, if a person lives with the dream of avenging himself on somebody, of doing anything evil, then he is taking energy from anger, resentment and jealousy, and these energies are self-destructive by nature. Generally speaking, all desires come from the false ego, and no matter how honorable they may sound, they lead to moral degradation, gloom and misfortune, being egoistic in the core of their nature. The synonym of egoism is a cancerous cell, which is indifferent to the rest of the organism because of its own interests. These may be desires such as snatching some advantage, achieving some status, gaining popularity, or even helping someone while hoping to get something in return.
On the other hand, the desires of our soul are altruistic and unselfish by nature and give us great inspiration and happiness.
For example, sit down and tell yourself:
“I will bring light and love into this world; no matter what happens, no matter how hard a lesson fate deals me, no matter how the people around me treat me, I will always be the Almighty’s servant and will bring light and love into this world.”
After some time, set yourself a different aim:
“I will live in this world only for myself, possibly for my family, and at most, for my nation. Life is short, so I will try to derive as much personal pleasure from it as possible and obtain the most prestige. I will achieve this no matter what happens, and harshly punish anyone who stands in my way.”
I think you can easily feel the difference in your psychological state. In the first example, a normal person will experience the feeling of joy and uplift, whilst in the second he will feel strained and restricted (this test is meant for people who have not yet deteriorated below the animal level). According to observations of modern scientists, in the first case, all the person’s body organs begin functioning harmoniously, and as some eye-witnesses can confirm, even standing near these people (even near the graves of such people), who live on bringing light and happiness to this world, can impart a sensation of bliss and may cure a severe illness.
In the second case, self-destructive processes begin acting in the organism, and even standing next to such people may cause negative emotions or even physical illness, even if these people are smiling at you.
1.4. The Qualities of our Character Determine our Fate
The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.
Now we have gradually reached a topic that is the basis of Eastern psychology, which explains that the qualities of our character determine our fate.
A difficult character has a severe fate.
We often cite an old English proverb: “Thought produces action, action makes habit, habit shapes character, and character creates fate.” However, originally in Eastern psychology the saying was more precise: “The reasons for success in all spheres of our life are correctly built relationships. However, the cause of such relationships is our culture. Culture is the external portrayal of your character.”
- Character is formed out of habits;
- Habits are the consequence of actions;
- Actions are born out of thoughts;
- Thoughts are originated by desires;
- Desires are inseparably associated with one’s character traits.
It is thus clear that a mean, envious and selfish person craves one thing, and a kind person something completely different. Therefore, it is really important to realize your own value.
Thus, immediately after we have realized and written down exactly what we want to attain, we must understand what inner values are at the basis of our wish to do so. In other words, we must understand our own ideals and values while at the same time verifying if we live according to them.
I would also like to emphasize one important philosophical issue, without understanding of which our life can become miserable and have self-destructive tendencies, even if we have described our life’s goal in the most beautiful words.
1.5. Any Great Deed is always Connected with the Death of the Ego
It is unwise to name progress as a goal in life, because progress is never-ending. A goal may consist only in a transformation of something, but not in the continuation or the improvement of something that already exists. For example, a doctor involved in science, must, first of all, think of the means he may cure people of diseases, but not about how to classify the existing illnesses, or search for new medicines that bring only temporary relief.
A doctor who is concentrated on his thesis, or focuses merely on the outer symptoms of diseases, without giving any deep thought to what is at the core of all the illnesses, and without understanding the laws of Creation and, therefore, the reasons for the existence of deceases, will do very little good to his patients or to medicine.
The plain statistic data speak for themselves: lots of money is spent on public health service, but the number of diseases, sick and suffering people is increasing. The main accomplishment of modern medicine is the development of surgery and the defeat of many infectious diseases. However, it often happens that surgical intervention is no longer all that necessary, and may even cause patient’s health to fail. (There is a dark humor joke that comes to mind in this respect: the operation was a success, except that the patient died).
Almost all antibiotics have strong side effects (from the same line of jokes: the temperature has returned to normal, but the liver has now failed). Some viruses have become immune to antibiotics. Factual analysis shows that infectious diseases have been taken under control not so much thanks to medical intervention, but more because of economic development, which improved peoples’ life conditions and personal hygiene levels.
According to world statistics and data from the World Health Organization, 10% of a person’s health depends on medicine, 15% on heredity, and the rest depends on the person himself.
However, until the modern luminaries of medicine acknowledge that the main cause for diseases is a patient’s character and attitude, that disease prevention is of vital importance too, and that a physician’s personality traits are as essential as his professional proficiency, we will never be able to bring modern medicine up to a new level.
A selfish, envious, greedy and easily angered person can hardly be called free, no matter what country he lives in. He is just a puppet, a slave of baser energies, and no other, more comfortable conditions can be his goal. The more progress such a type achieves in economy, education, culture, religion etc., the more destruction and misfortunes he will bring about in his own life and the lives of people around him. The more glory and power he receives, the more suffering this world will encounter. The goal of such a person must be freedom, which is a totally different state, and is reached through hard work on one’s character traits.
Fundamentally freedom is possible only if one’s goal is the unity of the soul with all existence. This is a genuine change to a new qualitative level of reality. As long as our temporary Self strives towards eternal life, we will be constantly undergoing failure like a cancerous cell. A cancerous cell is different from other cells by means of its overly inflated EGO.
1.6. See Clearly and Walk Confidently
Imagination is a trailer of life’s future events.
A man’s great power is the imagination of ego. It is dangerous when thinking of the unconquerable and causing fear. It is beneficial by creating an endless bright street of eternal life for humankind, a street that has no dead end or disintegration. We live on our imagination, but we also die because of it.
Vladimir, Archbishop of Tashkent and Central Asia
We must now understand how we are going to reach our established goal and from time to time take stock of what we are doing toward this end.
That is, if we don’t want to be like a ship wandering aimlessly around the ocean and constantly changing its course, we must thoroughly think over our life’s mission, certainly write it down, understand how we plan to accomplish it, and check once a week how we are abiding by our plan and whether we are doing everything possible to achieve it.
It is also very important to have a well formulated and written life’s mission, and also well formulated goals of other spheres of our activity.
Many people may say that their goals are in their head, and they can always recall and formulate them; so why is there a need to write them down too?
However, this will not work. Scientists affirm that in the course of 24 hours, over 50,000 thoughts flash through our mind, and when we write down our goals, we sort out a few important ones from among dozens of thousands of other secondary ones. It is as if we are erecting a big lighthouse that our mind can strive to, it helps it to concentrate and stops its aimless wandering, turning it into a manageable high-speed train. Furthermore, having received clear direction, our subconsciousness begins to actively help us.
It’s also important to ask ourselves such questions as:
- How am I going to achieve this?
- What am I doing to make my dream come true?
Once in the U.S., after I had finished a lecture, a woman came up to me. She had left the USSR many years before. She told me that after finishing school she had written a note indicating her 5 wishes. Before long she had forgotten all about it. Fifteen years later, while she was visiting her relatives in Ukraine, she found the old piece of paper among her belongings. She was really surprised to find out that all her wishes had come true…
I know many such stories.
My experience shows that if a person can clearly see the picture, the final goal that which he is trying to reach; then the result is much better. This may be either a picture created in our mind, or a photo on our desk if our aim is a certain material object. Therefore, in Buddhism, for example, powerful and controlled imagination is considered to be the main condition for succeeding in any sphere, and the main requirement for achieving any goal.
1.7. A Harmonious Individual has Goals on all Levels
It is important to have goals on the physical, intellectual, social and spiritual levels.
The examples of such goals on the physical level are the following: attaining physical health, cleansing of waste from the organism, increasing body flexibility, recovery from a certain illness, maintaining good appearance, slowing the aging process, etc.
For the intellectual level the goals may be: development of creative ability, increase of willpower, obtaining an academic degree, reading certain books, studying new material, learning foreign languages etc. This level is notably higher than the first one, as is apparent even from a practical point of view. Those who are involved in a creative activity are more successful and happier; moreover, they are physically healthier and grow old much slower. All this makes sense, given that it has been proven that practically all illnesses are psychosomatic in nature.
However, by a higher standard, all the goals of these two levels cannot be the final goal of our life, since these desires originate from the false ego, from the concept that â€œI am this body,â€ and everything that comes from the false ego leads to personal degradation, destruction and a life filled with fear, greed and envy.
From the standpoint of Eastern philosophy, the objective of establishing a correct goal must exist on the intellectual level, and if there is no such goal, the objective is to create such a goal. A wise man is distinguishable from others precisely by this advantage of having a clear goal, and understanding of what he is living for and where he is headed.
A life’s goal can only be placed on a spiritual level, however, there are many dangers hidden here too. In modern culture spiritual values are understood as: observation of the commandments proscribed by one’s religion, perusal of spiritual literature, or even attending the theater and exhibitions. Though much of this is important for our spiritual development, none of it can be the goal for our soul, only its means of achieving the goal.
Furthermore, all of this rightly belongs to the previous level. What can interest an infinite soul, filled with eternity, knowledge and bliss, the particle of Absolute in this world? The answer is: nothing. The only thing it needs is unconditional love.
It is said that our soul cannot live without love, just like our body cannot survive without breathing. We come into this world only to cleanse our consciousness and learn to accumulate love. Any other ultimate life goal, however beautiful it may sound, can lead us to soul deterioration, and, thus, also to the weakening of the subtle body (which consists of the mind and intellect), resulting in deterioration of the physical body. Love is the highest spiritual energy, being the basis of all other energies, and the only energy that gives bliss and the highest harmony.
The less love a man possesses, the less harmonious, happy and healthy he is. Apart from love, any other goal is unnatural and destructive. And once an individual deteriorates on the spiritual level, then in course of time the other levels fall into decay too. Are you ready to barter love for worldly riches?
It is true that a spiritual goal does imply self-discovery and social self-realization to some extent. But, unfortunately, in our society it is more usual to be engaged in the activity that brings more money and is more impressive, rather than in the activity that agrees with our psychological nature and talents. Still less people think about whether they are bringing benefit to this world through their activity.
It is very important to study and become skilled at what we like and what agrees with our nature, even if it is for only a few hours a week. At the same time, the most important thing is to concentrate on unselfish assistance to other people.
1.8. A Path is Comprised of Many Steps
Now it is necessary to split life’s main goal into intermediate levels and goals. First of all, we must write down our goal, our mission. We must clearly understand what we want to reach at the end of the road.
We must imagine ourselves after the course of, let us say, five years, and we must compile a plan for these five years, the next year, or the next week, based on our mission. With this in mind, we must define the roles we will play in this incarnation, and know what we want to achieve in each of the roles. For example: I am a son, father, husband, manager of some enterprise, member of some religious organization, etc. In each role it is preferable to have heroes, to whom we would like to be similar. Furthermore, if we want to get a house or a car, we must have a clear image in our mind, or even have a picture.
One of Los Angeles’s successful businessmen, who has taken many expensive management courses, told me that he had been taught one of the most important rules on how to determine how successful a person would be and whether he was prepared for leadership. The rule is very simple: you just have to ask him how he sees himself in five years and what he wants to achieve. Usually unsuccessful people can’t answer this question. In the best case they may answer that it all depends on circumstances.
We should imagine what we would like people to say about us at our funeral, in each role: as a father, as a specialist, etc., and strive for this.
It is very important to put our mission and plans in writing, and we should periodically return to check if we are going according to our chosen path. The very feeling that we are following our path, that our life is not meaningless, causes a sensation of happiness and psychological stability.
Working according to a written mission precipitates its becoming consolidated in our subconscious, and it is precisely subconscious agenda that determine the course of our life.
1.9. There is no Person, just Ideas and Ambitions; If there are no Ambitions, there is no Person, no Complete Personality
Based on the above, let us sum up our humble attempt to consider the question of what the first step on our Path should be.
First of all, sit up and sincerely answer the following questions:
- What do I really want to attain in this life?
- Who am I?
- What is the meaning of my life?
After having determined one’s values and ideals, a person can then make up a plan of his future life. If we do not do it, other people or circumstances will do it for us.
If a man does not keep the meaning of life in mind, he is dead, even if he leads an active life. Such people can be described thus: dead at 20, buried at 75…
It is important to remember that it is the goals that determine our level. The famous Rabbi Kook said: “A man is defined by his thoughts.”
A great Hindu saint, Bhaktivinoda Thakur, writes: “A man is assessed by his goals: the higher the goal, the higher the man’s level. The highest level is to have the goal of achieving love for God.”
In the Oriental world it has long been said: “There is no man but ideas and aspirations.”Consequently, if there are no aspirations, there is no man and no complete personality. Thus, one need not be surprised that in our society, where over 97% of people cannot intelligently formulate their goals, it is so rare to find a person who has succeeded in becoming truly happy.
The great Admiral Byrd wrote: “Without goals, our days would end the way only meaningless days can end in complete ruin.”
So don’t be afraid to dream and set up goals. Remember that we can attain only what we truly want to attain. It is impossible to attain anything to which our subconscious is not attuned.
It is important to cast aside all fears and doubts.
One of the fundamental laws of Creation can be summarized as follows: “If you have a wish or a dream, it means you have the ability to make it come true.”
Another yet no less important law is: “Everything first happens in our mind, and only then appears on the physical level. Without passing over the first level, it is impossible to accomplish anything in this world. Therefore, it is greatly important to give free rein to our imagination.”
“At this moment we are what we have previously desired, and our future is determined by our present desires,” — stated the enlightened Buddha.
It is also important to remember that we are interconnected and depend upon others’ desires.
1.10. The Last Word Always Belongs to… God
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
St. Matthew 7.7-8
It’s the middle of May, 2007. It is surprisingly hot in Israel. After finishing my writing, I start for a swimming pool. Swimming helps me get away from the rest of the world, and new ideas come to my mind as I cover my standard two kilometers. This time I am recalling the people I met on my way to the pool. The first encounter was with an Arabic street vendor at a traffic light who had been aggressively trying to sell me some razors. The second one was with a Russian-speaking security guard at the pool, who was indignant at the constantly changing climate. “In all my 17 years in Israel I haven’t seen such weather: first it’s hot, then it’s raining, and all this is happening in May!” It was very easy to observe the main emotions behind this statement: stress and irritation. These are common emotions for people who are obsessed with results and react sensitively to even the slightest unexpected changes. In many cases such people start suffering from health problems very early and are not successful in social life.
Through many examples, I have long been convinced how evidently the principal laws of Eastern psychology operate.
- We can attain only that to which we are not overly attached.
- The sensation of uplift brings about happiness, health and success in life. The sensation of uplift can only be experienced if we do not let ourselves become dependent upon anything or anyone in this world.
Dependence produces stress and anger, which make our life difficult, and our intuition closes its doors for us. It is practically impossible to strike a target with a shaking hand… Dependence is caused by our desire to receive more than we give, by our consideration that some object in this world can make us eternally happy, by egoism and the fear of losing.
Therefore, it is important to:
- Clearly set up our goals, which must be directed toward the benefit of all living beings.
- Dedicate our profit to God. It is important not to become overly attached to the fruits of our labor. If your aspiration is directed toward serving this world and this process itself is more important to you than the goal, your life turns out to be a constant feast. This way we come to understanding that our life is a captivating game, and that we are its Co-Creators.
The first thing to begin with, after expressing our desires inwardly or on paper, is to get used to finishing the process off with one of the following phrases:
“Everything is in accordance with God’s love.”
“I rely upon God’s Will in everything.”
“Let Your Will be done, not mine, as You know better what I need.”
This brings out real resignation to one’s fate, a wonderful quality which is the base for perfection.
1.11. Facts to Ponder
1. September 1st, 2007. I am conducting seminars and consultations in Chicago. For the third day in a row I have now been growing dissatisfied, as I’ve had no time to do a number of small things: to answer urgent mail, finish a book…
I know the reason for this is that I have no plan for the day. As always, the main argument is that I have no time to plan; however, I can always find an extra half-hour to chat with my friends after dinner, or an extra 20 minutes to lie around in bed after waking up.
I know that similar things happen to many other people. This does not only concern one day’s planning, but also planning of a week, a year, and life as a whole; we have no time and “it is clear what needs to be done anyway”. By continuing in this way, we are similar to a driver who is in a hurry trying not to be late for a meeting, but has no time to stop to study the map, arrange his route, or call to clarify the details of the route.
2. Buddhist masters maintain that the most important human ability necessary for spiritual and material progress is the power of imagination and the ability to see a detailed image of one’s desired future.
3. If we sum up the experiences of modern masters who publish books on how to succeed in this life (Stephen Covey, Napoleon Hill, Robin Sharma, and many others), we will readily discover that all of them advise, first of all, to put together a plan, create a passionate desire for something, write down one’s goals and imagine the final result clearly. It is also desirable to learn how to plan one’s life and not to be afraid to dream. They confirm that it is impossible to reach anything without this.
SCIENTISTS DISCOVER THAT AN AIMLESS LIFE KILLS
From 1994 to 2004, a group of scientists from the Medical Department of Tohoku University in Japan, headed by Professor Itiro Tsudzi, observed 43,000 physically healthy men and women between the ages of 40 and 79.
In the course of periodic questioning, 59% of the examined people declared that they had a clear goal and led a satisfying life, while 5% acknowledged that they had no goal in life, and the rest found it difficult to answer this question.
Within seven years, over 3,000 of those examined had died of illness or committed suicide. In spite of the different death factors, the overall picture proved very conclusive: the death rate among those who had no clear goal in life and avoided strenuous activities was approximately 1.5 times higher.
(this article is taken from the book Ten Steps to Happiness by Rami Bleckt)