Why We Crave Goals

by Stephen Shapiro

Why We Crave GoalsAs many of you may know, my second book was called Goal-Free Living. Although it was originally going to be a book on how to be more creative, it morphed into a manifesto for a counter-cultural way of living.

In fact, the “goal-free” philosophy will be featured in a major newspaper early next year. Stay tuned for that.

Someone once asked me why people crave goals. It is a hard question to answer. But an interesting point of view was sent to me by Antony Woods from Australia, and I wanted to share it with you…

He quotes a renowned 20th Century Burmese Meditation Master:

“The fourth protection for your psychological benefit is to reflect on the phenomenon of ever-approaching death. Buddhist teachings stress that life is uncertain, but death is certain; life is precarious but death is sure. Life has death as its goal. There is birth, disease, suffering, old age, and eventually, death. These are all aspects of the process of existence.”

From: Practical Vipassana Meditation Exercises by Mahasi Sayadaw

Antony then suggested that “people often set goals for their lives assuming that they won’t die in the foreseeable future. They assume that the New Year will come, tomorrow will come etc. The only thing one knows that is coming is death, but one doesn’t know when. Rather than thinking “death, death, death,” reflection helps one to appreciate the duration of each breath and have a playful, tentative and pragmatic attitude about the future. I reckon this is what Goal-Free Living is all about.”

Interesting thing to consider as we get ready for New Year’s Eve and the goal-setting ritual known as “resolutions.”

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Stephen ShapiroStephen Shapiro is the author of three books, a popular innovation speaker, and is the Chief Innovation Evangelist for Innocentive, the leader in Open Innovation.

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