Set Goals Without Struggling

“A windmill is eternally at work to accomplish one end, although it shifts with every variation of the weathercock, and assumes 10 different positions in a day.” – Charles Caleb Colton (Lacon, 1825)

My first reaction to Deepak Chopra’s book, “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” was something like: “He’s got to be kidding. A spiritual path to success and fortune? A truly spiritual person does not seek success and fortune. This must be some kind of New Age scam.
But when I read what he had to say and compared it to what I’ve done and learned in business, I was surprised to find myself agreeing with him. When I first encountered his chapter on Intention and Desire, my immediate reaction was likewise cynical: The Eastern philosophy is all about detachment and spirituality. That contradicts desire and intention.

But, again, I read what he had to say and found myself in agreement. There is a way to detach yourself emotionally from a situation and still have a desire to see a good outcome and intend to make it happen. It’s not easy, but it can be done. And if you can teach yourself to do it, you can probably accomplish more and have a whole lot better time doing so.

Change, Chopra says, is brought about by two qualities of consciousness: attention and intention. “Attention energizes, and intention transforms. Whatever you put your attention on will grow stronger in your life. Whatever you take your attention away from will wither, disintegrate, and disappear. Intention, on the other hand, triggers transformation of energy and information. Intention organizes its own fulfillment.”

Intent, Chopra says, is desire without attachment to the outcome. You can, for example, intend to get your newsletter published on time, but you don’t need to attach yourself to the outcome to do so. You can work — and even work diligently and hard — on getting a schedule done, on persuading the participants to honor it, on checking and double-checking their progress … and you can do that without setting your heart’s happiness on the specific achievement of the intended outcome. If it happens, everything is fine. If it doesn’t — despite all your good efforts –you can be OK with that too, so long as you haven’t attached your heartstrings to the hoped-for deadline.

When you intend to accomplish certain things without attaching yourself to those things, you find yourself in a state of “life-centered, present-moment awareness.” As long as your attention remains in the present, you will have the energy and the presence of mind to make adjustments even if the outcome isn’t what you had intended.

When you try and fail, in other words, you don’t go crazy about it. You merely accept the fact that the world is more complicated than you had imagined and you realize that you now have an opportunity to take other action, calmly and effortlessly, to continue toward your intended goal. “The future is something you can always create through detached intention,” Chopra says, “but you should never struggle against the present.”

Most of the obstacles we face in our work are more imagined than real. Less than 10% of them, Chopra argues, are real. By staying focused on the present and keeping yourself open to surprises (in other words, detaching yourself from expected outcomes), you will be able to quickly see the imaginary obstacles as imaginary and deal with the real ones in a relaxed and thoughtful manner.

“Learn to harness the power of intention,” Chopra advises, “and you can create anything you desire.”

Here are his five steps for fulfilling your desires without attachment.

1. Slip into the gap when you face a problem. Relax. Don’t get frustrated. Be quiet and feel confident that you will find a way to solve it.

2. Release any specific attachments you have for a specific outcome. Trust your natural instincts and intelligence to come up with an effective solution.

3. Don’t worry about what others may think. Don’t be embarrassed by the situation. You are the master of your fate. You will find a solution.

4. Enjoy the idea that the outcome you seek may not be the one you get. Recognize that the outcome you get may turn out to be better.

5. Trust yourself. There are an infinite number of ways to solve any problem. Give yourself enough time and energy and relaxation to find one that will work for you.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]