Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Role of Goals

"Robert M. Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, describes joining a group of elderly Zen monks mountain-climbing in the Himalayas. Though Pirsig was the youngest member of the expedition, he was the only one who struggled; he eventually gave up, while the monks effortlessly ascended to the peak.

"Pirsig, focused on the goal of reaching the peak of the mountain and overwhelmed by what lay ahead, was unable to enjoy the climb; he lost his desire--and his strength--to carry on. The monks also focused on the peak, but only to make sure they were staying on course, not because reaching the peak itself was most important to them. Knowing that they were headed in the right direction allowed them to focus their attention and enjoy each step, rather than be overwhelmed by what lay ahead.

"The proper role of goals is to liberate us, so that we can enjoy the here and now."

                                                     --Tal Ben-Shahar, Happier, pp. 69, 70

Running a marathon is not about crossing the finish line so much as it is about learning to find joy in each stride taken from the first day of training right up until the goal is achieved. One foot in front of the other. Stay the course, and the finish line eventually comes to you.

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