Within our days and our lifetime there are many things we aspire to accomplish. Long term goals and daily habits enter our mind and become wishes, hopes. While considering these future accomplishments we might picture ourselves basking in the light of enjoyment and/or completion. We might want to establish a discipline; of meditation, diet, weight loss, writing, music. We might picture ourselves in a home overlooking a lake, basking in the sun, finally in our dream location.
Goals and dreams are natural to many and can be useful for shaping our lives over time. They may never be accomplished but remain a regular fantasy throughout our days.
I believe the way in which we dream and fantasize has much to do with our accomplishment. If we want to take the goal further than the mind’s eye, there are some common pitfalls to consider. I am familiar with them from experience.
- Placing our goal behind qualifications. If your meditation practice, for example, requires a particular setting, time, and conditions, you may never meet the right moment to begin. “I need this cushion, this altar, this temperature, a window, etc.” Accepting imperfect or basic conditions to begin, we are more likely to get our body to the mat.
- Perfect accomplishment. If you have established a regular routine you will know that habits are refined through practice. In the beginning they often feel contrived, forced and uncomfortable. The first time I recited a Sutra prayer out loud I felt very odd. It took time to internalize the words, find a rhythm, and find meaning in them. “Perfection is the enemy of good enough”, a quote often attributed to Votaire, is a call to move our feet forward.
- Intimidated by the act. Starting a habit or persisting may intimidate you. For me, writing is often a challenge to begin. The blank page doesn’t give me guidance or encouragement. It’s a little like jumping off a cliff into cold water. The anticipation of the shock (finding my voice in writing) can stop me in my tracks. The antidote requires jumping despite my hesitation; over and over and over again.
- Intimidated by the scope of the act. I can get caught in the immensity of a goal. There are so many chords to learn, so many songs. It’s difficult to get my fingers in the right position not to mention moving them fast enough for the song. Singing and playing? Oh my god! I’ll never be able to accomplish that. These things are real but they don’t have to be accomplished in a single sitting. Can you enjoy the steps along the way. Truth be told, you probably won’t win a Grammy. Perhaps you need to revisit you purpose for playing.
- Acceptance – Approval. Whether we struggle with approval from a voice inside or outside, the effect is the same. Closely related to our need for perfection, there is little we can do to satisfy this need except to acknowledge the green monster and move on. After recognizing the feeling of “not good enough”, we can do our practice despite it or even bring that energy into our practice.