Goals You Can’t Pursue Directly
Be careful what you go after. There are some things you can’t get by going after them directly.
In terms of goal-setting, some things are counter-indicated as legitimate goals to pursue. That is, there are some goals you should not go after, If you do, your pursuit will backfire on you. In fact, your very pursuit may even actively prevent you from attaining your objective! It may set you back so that it would have been better not to have sought it in the first place.
• What are some examples of these kinds of goals?
• What would fit into this kind of shocking category?
I’ll call these are goals that evaporate with directness paradoxical goals. Setting your intention on them and going after them directly causes them to burst. They go “poof.” When you pursue them, they blow up, leaving you nothing.
For example, suppose you set a goal to sleep better. Yet what happens when you go after sleep directly? Suppose you use the well-formed outcome pattern and set out to get sleep as your desired outcome.
1) Stated and represented Positively: I want to sleep quickly when I go to bed and deeply and wake up refreshed.
2) Sensory-based or empirical: I will lie down on my bed, pull the covers over my head.
3) Contextualized: My bedroom and bed.
4) Actions steps and stages: I will lie down on the bed and try really hard to go to sleep. If it doesn’t, I will urge myself more intensely to sleep, “Sleep now.” If not, I will tell myself to not worry, but put more energy into trying to sleep. And tell myself how important it is, and what will happen if I don’t. When I realize I’m thinking about things that are making me more awake, I tell myself to not think about them.
5) Self initiated and maintained: Yes.
6) Resources specified: bed, quiet room, time set aside for sleeping, desire, realization of value.
7) Compelling: Yes, I want to sleep and tell myself about all of the healthful benefits of getting a good sleep.
8) Ecologically balanced: Yes, will help with health, mental alertness, be less grumpy in the morning, etc.
9) Forecasted in a time frame: Every evening.
10) Evidence Procedure: I wake up naturally before alarm clock rings, notice that I immediately start thinking about the things I get to do during the day, and feel excited.
Of course, as you well know, using that strategy to reach the desired outcome of sleep will not work. In fact, the more you try, the more you demand, the more you expect it— the more it will escape you. Why is that? Why is it paradoxical? It’s paradoxical because it violates that nature of the desired experience.
Sleep is an experience that results from the need to sleep. It does not respond to being commanded because it is not something that operates volitionally. Sleep is rather a derivative response to certain activities and states. It is derived from other things—sleep happens easily and naturally if you are physically tired and when you are mentally relaxed. So if you have expended physical energy during the day, exercised, and have a way to release the worries of the day prior to going to bed, you will typically sleep well.
How then do we set a goal for better, deeper, and more healthful sleep? First set the direction of healthful sleep by doing things that will create a good physical tiredness, set aside sufficient time for sleep (7 to 9 hours), and then create a ritual of non-stimulating activities prior to bedtime. With that direction, you can now set a goal for these things: perhaps set a goal for spending twenty minutes listening to quiet music, or light reading, or watching a silly sit-com, or soaking in a bathtub, or getting 30 minutes of exercise during the day. Set a goal for some reflective thinking at the end of the day, checking off the things you achieved, and writing a to-do list for the next day for setting specific activities, and then you can release all of that, drink a glass of milk, and get ready for bed.
Doing these things will then give you the conditions and the reason for sleeping well. Doing such is working intelligently with the nature of sleep. Conversely, if you set your intention and goal for sleep directly, the frame-by-implicatio n of the goal is that sleep functions volitionally and can be commanded. This is false-to-fact.
“Okay,” you say, “sleep is like that. I can see that. But what else? What are some other goals that are paradoxical in that way so that going after them directly is counter-productive? ”
Primarily happiness! And that’s why I titled this series of Meta Reflections, “Have a Meta New Year” rather than “Have a Happy New Year.” As an experience, happiness is derivative rather than volitionally responsive. Sure we can “act” happy, we can put on a happy face, we can smile and see if the world will smile back at us, but the inner experience of feeling happy, delighted, and joyous results from other things— from doing the things that give us a reason to be happy. So in pursuing happiness, it is best pursued indirectly rather than directly. In fact, pursuing it directly tends to lead to a passive “Entertain me!” mentality.
Viktor Frankl, The Will to Meaning (1969), speaks to this in these words;
“Attaining the goal constitutes a reason for being happy. In other words, if there is a reason for happiness, happiness ensues, automatically and spontaneously, as it were. And that is why one need not pursue happiness, one need not care for it once there is a reason for it.” (p. 34)
To the extent that you make happiness the objective of your intention and motivation, you make it the object of your attention. And with that then you become self-conscious of your emotional state and then, paradoxically, the more self-conscious you are of that— the less aware and focused you’ll be on the external factors that can make you happy.
“Success and happiness must happen, and the less one cares for them, the more they can.” (35)
Happiness is peripheral. As an emotion it comes and goes. It is dependent primarily upon your reason to be happy. So, what is your reason to be happy? Why be pleased with something? What’s your mental map about it? And what is the experience that’s validating it? Since we need a reason to be happy, a cause whose effect is pleasure, what is yours? Happiness comes from a job well done as you reflect on that accomplishment and what it means to you. Happiness doesn’t come from searching for happiness, it comes in service to others, contributing to making a difference in the world, succeeding at a highly valued task, and so on.
All of this explains why it is inherently self-defeating to pursue “happiness.” And for that matter, almost any “emotion.” Emotions are derivative rather than volitionally responsive. While we can anchor a state and use our body to elicit an emotional response, emotions generally are functions of the relationship between our mental maps about things and the experiences we have. And that will be the subject of the next Meta Reflection.
by L. MIchael hall
source: from one of yahoogroups.com