Balance: The Balance Between Mindfulness and Goals

The Balance Between Mindfulness and Goals

Which has more appeal to you? Just living in the moment or Planning for what you want?

I believe there’s a balance to be struck somewhere between the two.

Between mindfulness and setting goals.

Personally, I like the idea of living in the present, enjoying every moment that we have, trying not to worry about things that may not happen or that we cannot change and trying to avoid spending too much time in the past or in the future.

But…

I also know that what gets measured, gets improved, failing to plan is planning to fail and that having clear goals – being really clear about what we want – is the best way to improve our chances of getting there.

So what gives?

How I Try and Balance ‘Now’ and ‘Then’

Well, the balance that I’m shooting for is to be clear about what I want from life in terms of visualizing (‘Then’) what I want to happen from time to time (I tend to focus on the key concepts I want in place) then to get back to the present (‘Now’) and let my sub-conscious help me get there.

Sure, from time to time I may need to re-focus and re-prioritize what I want from life, but then that is actually more like a chosen, meditative exercise which I have made a little time for rather than something that hampers my day-to-day activities.

Once I have re-focused, I’ll attempt to go back to living in the present without worrying too much about what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future.

When I Use Goals

I also know that for very specific projects, setting goals and planning is a great way to learn and to get things done efficiently, so there’s the exception, I do use goals, milestones, planning and measurement on specific projects.

Goals

I’ve written before about how I’m not a huge fan of goals (despite being a coach, which I know is a little weird), though they can be very useful in specific situations.

Goals are a standard tool used by lots of coaches, individuals and organizations.

… and it’s really hard to talk about coaching without talking about goals.

But goals can also be dangerous, they can give a false sense of achievement, they can slow us down, they can de-motivate or can actually take us off-track if poorly conceived.

Goals can be awesome, but they can also give a false sense of achievement.

At the same time, goals can be awesome – they can provide much needed focus, they can guide us along the right path and improve momentum, they can give a sense of measurement and an indication of how far we have come and how far we have left to go, they can make us happy and they can be all the difference between success and failure.

The point is that goals are a tool and like any tool, they can be the best thing or the worst thing depending upon the environment, the type of person or people using them and the nature of the task at hand.

Mindfulness

I love the idea of mindfulness – of being fully present.

We have very little to lose by being fully present and a lot to gain.

We have plenty of articles on this subject so I’m not going to explain the concept here. If you’d like to know more about mindfulness, start with this article: How To Practice The Art Of Mindfulness.

That being said, I don’t think mindfulness is something that is meant to be employed 100% of the time – i.e. if we spend 100% of our time in the present moment without any reflection on the past or preparation for the future then we are going to miss out on a great deal.

We have very little to lose by being fully present… and a lot to gain.

I think we should simply practice mindfulness whenever we can, to be fully present, experience all that life has to offer and be there for the people we are with too. This clearly leaves us time to reflect and to plan as well.

The problem I see is that most of us spend far too much time in the past or in the future, and not enough time in the present.

So I can’t really tell you the good and bad of mindfulness because I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all – I don’t think it’s meant to be practiced 100% of the time and I’m not sure it could be. The problem is that most of us aren’t mindful enough and we could all adopt this practice more often for healthier lives, myself included.

Fulfilllment, Success or Happiness?

I have to confess, I don’t even know what the goal of telling you all this is.

Terrible to say, given that we’re always told to focus on outcomes so much these days, but I’m really interested in the philosophical point rather than telling you specifically what this balance will achieve.

Isabelle wrote a great article last week about fulfillment, posing the question “When is it time to stop wanting more and start enjoying what we already have?” and though this article could be a continuation of that discussion, it could also be viewed from any number of different perspectives.

I guess finding the right balance between mindfulness and goals – between ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ – will primarily improve your happiness, but I actually think it’s much more fundamental than that – I think getting this right will bring you better results too – in life and in business.

Final Thought

Both of these things are effectively tools that, used right and in the right proportion can help you to achieve great things in your life and business.

The part I can’t tell you is what that proportion looks like for you.

Are you someone who likes structure, who enjoys planning and finds it motivating rather than stressful.

Do you work better under pressure and given set guidelines or as a free spirit with no constraints?

Are you in an environment that is seeking measured progress or one that is looking for innovation?

The person you are, the environment you are living or working in and the things you are trying to achieve will tell you what your balance will be.


Comments

Balance: The Balance Between Mindfulness and Goals — 6 Comments

  1. I’m glad someone has finally written about this. I’ve thought about this subject before too. Everyone says it’s good to have goals (well, almost everyone), but on the flip side everyone says to live in the present. How are we supposed to do both at once? I completely agree with you that there needs to be some sort of balance. I think it’s an interesting idea to let your subconscious help you get there. So maybe a good balance would be to be aware of your goals, but live in the present and also rely on your subconscious to get you where you want to go. Perhaps keeping those goals in the back of your mind would help and consistently checking up on them.

    I’ve always thought of it this way. Live mostly for the present, but keep a thought or two at all times on where you’re heading. But that might just work for me, it might not for everyone.

    • Yeah, I guess the point is that some people get a little too excited about goals and expect too much of them – a little like a crutch sometimes.

      At the same time, most of us could do with spending a lot more time in the present, myself included. It’s an easy concept to grasp, still we find our minds wandering into the future or the past – in fact, responding to your comment I’m feeling a little déja vu at the moment because I’ve been having this conversation a few times – I think I just decided what I’m going to write about today – hold on a minute…

      … OK I’m back. CommentLuv will probably tell you below what I just did 😉 – anyways, yes, 1000% I agree with your comment, it’s the smart thing to do having this kind of balance, it’s not just you (though I’ll bet surprisingly few people do the same unfortunately).

  2. Hey Jeevan,

    I’m pretty sure you are someone who gets the balance about right. The fact that you think about these things at all is more than being half-way there in my view.

    The problem is that most people don’t see the connection between these things, their time etc and react to the latest stuff they’re told – they’re so busy with life that they forget to live. Someone tells them goals are a good thing so it becomes all about goals.

    As Raquel said, often it’s just a matter of wanting the balance.

  3. I try to balance it out.

    For some tasks (or situations), planning ahead can save us a lot of time, effort and money (who doesn’t like saving stuff? :D). But, for others, living in the moment is better 😀

    I think it also comes down to the particular person. For instance: I know a lot of people who prefer planning their posts out and writing them, but I prefer to write at the moment, instead of planning early (doesn’t mean, planning is bad. I do enjoy planning too :D).

    I also love looking at this from a philosophical perspective (although a part of my mind thinks that I am wasting time, trying to explain all this).

    As for mindfulness, I have been trying to practice it (I mean, trying to improve our observation skills, analyze each situation and see if anything is wrong or out of the ordinary. I am getting better at it, noticing lot of things that I usually don’t notice).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing this post, Alan 🙂 Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

  4. Great post Alan, thanks for sharing. It really provides me with some food for thought. I find quite often being mindfull can get easily swept under the rug with so many thoughts of goals and sometimes past failures.
    I found today while reading your article and then sitting down to have my haircut my mind was wandering into the future rather than enjoying the moment or rather just being in the moment. Again I agree it depends on the person and their environment and circumstances and believe balance is possible, it’s just a matter of wanting the balance.

    • Hi Raquel,

      thanks for the comment! I love mindfulness, from a practical, philosophical and psychological point of view.

      Practical because it’s awesome and has great benefits, philosophical because for something so very simple, it’s amazing how much we don’t do it and psychological because the mechanics of it are actually really fascinating (again, for something that’s actually very simple and very natural).

      Now I actually think I do know what Mesothelioma is, but I’m off to find out if I got that right…

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