Let’s be honest. How many times have you had a certain plan but ended up losing track of it, maybe without even realizing that you were doing so. Many of our very well intentioned and, logically thinking, really useful goals end up being forgotten, postponed or delayed to death. We might have a great start but something happens on our way to finish that makes us lose focus on our goal. Mindfulness might be the thing you need to deal with this obstacle.
Mindfulness is the new buzzword. From mindful eating for increased pleasure, mindful conversations for a better connection to our loved ones to mindful parenting; the art of non-judgmental awareness and acceptance is being applied to multiple disciplines. Actually mindfulness does seem to be a hugely versatile skill and way of being in the world. The behavioral, social and neurosciences suggest that mindfulness can increase our focus and our happiness while also reducing stress, physical pain and heart disease. And I think mindfulness, too, is a basic skill for goal achievement.
The basic idea you need to remember is that mindfulness training (which consists of formal meditation practice and daily life activities that are completed in a state of presence and observation) teaches you to maintain your focus where you want it to be. This can mean to keep your attention on your breathing, your thoughts, your feet touching the ground while walking or getting in a state of something called spacious awareness, where you expand your senses to become aware of all the input you are receiving through them in the present moment. Once you realize you have lost your focus, you return to the chosen object of attention, without judging yourself, practicing an attitude of acceptance, patience and persistence each time you do so. Note that it’s the repeated becoming aware of where you are and returning to where you wanted to be that builds your mindfulness, not the fact of staying centered in itself.
So, how can we use mindfulness to obtain our goals? Let’s imagine goal attainment as a journey of a "space shuttle"* to a far away planet. Once we are on the mission and racing through space, we realize that on our way to Goal, we pass many different planets, each with their respective fields of gravity. They are not the objective of our mission but its power of attraction might take our spaceship off course. Actually some of these fields of gravity might that strong, that we end up cruising around the (wrong) planet for ages, wasting fuel and time for a mission that we’re not really on.
In daily life this metaphor translates into all these different missions we are on, and all the daily distractions that bring us off course. I want to eat healthy but get into the field of attraction of a yummy, sugary treat and off I am, on the mission to Chocolate and Cheesecake. Or, if we talk about more serious problems like mental illness, we want to be free from social anxiety but end up giving in to our catastrophic thoughts that make us believe that we should just stay home because going out to meet new people would be just too scary.
So, you might ask…. Mindfulness is about always staying on course? No. Mindfulness accepts that always staying on course is practically impossible as there are so many distractions around, and so many projects that compete for our attention. Mindfulness is about realizing when you are diverging from your path. It reminds you to readjust your direction, so that you can get back on track.
In practice we have found, that many goals are being disposed because our initial expectations are highly unrealistic. We think that just by setting an intention we will be able to “get there”. The fact is that we will probably encounter difficulties and get off track. If we lose hope in those moments and conclude, that we will not make it, we give in to being on the wrong mission and just maintain the course of least resistance. Being mindful and realizing where your centre of focus is at a certain moment, can help you to:
Given the fact that there is no straight line towards big achievements, it just seems the most useful attitude to adopt. So these are my recommendations to mindful goal attainment:
Stop regularly to connect to the present moment. Be aware of the course you are on. Ask yourself where it is leading you, if you are moving forward or going in circles. Adjust your course if necessary. Then, repeat whenever needed.
Are you interested in staying focused on your path while accepting where you are at the present moment? At SINEWS we can help you reach your goals. Ask for an appointment with our Wellbeing and Life Transitions Coach Eva or our Acceptance and Commitment (ACT) therapist Lidia.
*a metafor used by my mindfulness teacher Rafael De Silva