“Not the wind, but the sail determines the direction.”
– from China
Elderly people have told me surprising stories from their early years. Some had beautiful wishes and dreams, but they tended to forget about them as life became demanding and busy. Later in their 60s they asked themselves what actually happened in their middle decades. And they didn’t really understand why they did not follow up on these early wishes. They could not comprehend why they forgot about them altogether and why their lives turned so far away from their original dreams.
Often we have only the slightest idea about the direction we’d like our life to take. Easily we lack clarity, knowledge, and a far-reaching view. Many things just seem to happen without us having chosen them consciously. Many decisions are based on what we see right now in the current situation we find ourselves in, without considering even the near, let alone the far distant future. So do we have a good inner orientation, a kind of inner North Star? What really are our goals? This blog entry is going to be one of many questions.
How do we choose?
After having graduated from high school I was looking for a positive way of life. After thirteen years of learning, doing, and focusing on what others had chosen, I suddenly found myself in a situation in which I had to know what I wanted. That felt difficult. Now everything depended on my decisions. I wondered how others could handle that seemingly awesome responsibility.
I was aware of the fact that the decisions I made would determine further options down the road. I was looking for a reliable orientation for those decisions. There were different opinions and consequences related to the different options. What would be the best path in the long run? After I chose, more options and choices would be waiting down the road. So many! What was the best for me in the long run?
Especially in certain situations, such as on free days, or at the beach, when we hear inspiring life stories from others, see a nice movie, or after a good conversation with friends, we might feel closer to our dreams and more clear about our wishes and visions. In these times, as with my elderly friends, we find information from inside about our dreams. Often our inner vision of our life seems to contrast with our actual life.
We have opinions, we believe in something, we have our habits, convictions, knowledge, our intuition, needs, good motivation, worries, and goals. They all are influencing our decisions. They are good supports for our choices, but they themselves are at the same time constantly changing. Do we have a sense for what’s true beneath these changing factors? A sense of what’s reliable, what’s more stable, less subject to change? Do we have an inner blueprint that is reliable enough to possibly connect our dreams with reality?
Our own values
All of these questions are leading to something that we are not always aware of: our values and goals. Values can be quite diverse: family, honesty, success, liberation, fairness, pleasure, good relationships, personal development, love, authenticity, well-being, freedom and many more. Which are yours?
Our own goals
And what are your goals? Do you know them well? Do you reflect on them sometimes? Are these goals really important to you? What is most important to you for your life? Do you live your life accordingly?
The process of setting goals has been well-researched and the outcome is surprising: Eighty percent of us don’t have clear and conscious goals. Sixteen percent sometimes think about their goals. Four percent of us write our goals down and only one percent of those reflect on them later again and again. These people are extremely successful in achieving what’s important to them.
What are our goals?
How do we wish to orient our lives? Do we wish to clarify our views, our way of thinking, our actions? What if we could choose what drives our efforts, attention, and concentration? If we had such choice, what would we do with it?
If we reflect on these questions from time to time we might find what is deeply true for us. By connecting our deepest sense of truth with the outer activity of our life, we can discover (perhaps for the first time) the power in making choices. And we might also see that not only do our outer conditions change constantly, but our inner conditions do as well. Through our responses to this natural flux, our life can become more flexible, resilient, and satisfying.
I wish you all a beautiful week and inspiring thoughts and conversations. Put up good sails to follow your chosen direction.