Saturday, December 12, 2009

What is Your Goal in Life?

I never really thought about what my main goal in life was until I was 17. I lived life because that is what I had always done. I tried to do well in school because I liked doing well. I had a job because I needed money. I did things to do them.

It amazes me that I floated in life for so long without really thinking about why I did anything, beyond surface reasons.

When I was first asked the "goal in life" question by my then-girlfriend, now fiancee, I did not know what to say. I thought about it for a minute and said my goal in life was to be successful. "Quick thinking," I thought to myself with a smile.

I asked her the same question. She said her goal was to be happy.

The moment she answered I knew her answer was better then mine. (She is a very smart woman.)

Having a big, overarching goal is not necessary as evidenced by my initial 17 years of existence. But it is helpful. It's helpful in those moments when you are searching for reasons to get up in the morning or deciding what type of career you should choose. It's helpful when contemplating philosophical questions like,why am I here?

Happiness in context

Currently I am reading The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by The Dalai Lama. The main idea of the book is very clear: "the purpose of our life is happiness." The idea is discussed in the context of how it can be helpful on a day-to-day basis. Flipping through the book, here is a section from a page I dogeared:

"The purpose of our life is happiness. That simple statement can be used as a powerful tool in helping us navigate through life's daily problems. From that perspective, our task becomes one of discarding the things that lead to suffering and accumulating the things that lead to happiness. The method, the daily practice, involves gradually increasing our awareness and understanding of what truly leads to happiness and what doesn't.

When life becomes too complicated and and we feel overwhelmed, it's often useful to stand back and remind ourselves of our overall purpose, our overall goal. When faced with a feeling of stagnation and confusion, it may be helpful to take an hour, an afternoon, or even several days to simply reflect on what it is that will truly bring us happiness, and then restart our priorities on the basis of that. This can put our life back in proper context, allow a fresh perspective, and enable us to see which direction to take."

The advice is simple.  Become aware of what leads to your happiness and what leads to suffering.  Do what makes you happy and don't do what makes you suffer. Obviously, in our real lives it is not this simple.  Little is black and white and sometimes its necessary to face the things that make us suffer before they will go away.

Whether you decide that your purpose in life is to be happy or if it's something else, the above advice can be helpful. Taking a moment to step back to ensure that our actions and decisions are in line with our ultimate goal is crucial. Because it is the accumulation of our decisions that ultimately determine who we are and who we become. 

Photo: rajkumar1220

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