Why We Crave Goals

December 23, 2010  

As 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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2 Responses to “Why We Crave Goals”

  1. Tweets that mention Why We Crave Goals | Business Innovation Speaker and Consultant Stephen Shapiro -- Topsy.com on December 23rd, 2010 1:24 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jorge Barba and Stephen Shapiro. Stephen Shapiro said: Why We Crave Goals: As many of you may know, my second book was called “Goal-Free Living.”  Although it was orig… http://bit.ly/e1YLUI [...]

  2. Antony Woods on December 23rd, 2010 8:17 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I figured out a humorous way Mindfulness of Death can help me not to oversleep (goal-less like eating bon-bons watching Jerry Springer). When I wake up in the morning contemplating having to stay awake for 16 hours before I get to go back to bed again, I can think “Death could come at any time. I might not have to stay awake for 16 hours.”

    Cheers / Antony.