Question: How is it possible to enjoy the moment while staying goal-oriented
November 15, 2007 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Question: How is it possible to enjoy the moment while staying goal-oriented

As a person who likes being goal-oriented, I naturally compare what I am doing now and how would I like it to be different in the future. I think it's a good thing too because it stimulates me to think about new approaches, changes, etc.. etc..

However, while I recognize the value of "looking forward," being goal-oriented can sometimes make what I presently do seem lackluster in comparison with what I am aiming for. So, my question basically boils down..

How do you recognize a present moment as a stepping-stone, something imperfect that will have to be changed, while still enjoying that moment and feeling good about it? (Analysis of imperfections is important and wonderful for thinking about future changes, but can damper the pleasure of being in the moment and enjoying it.)
posted by gregb1007 to Society & Culture (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
For me, there is (presently) more of a confluence than a conflict in living in the moment versus future/goals. By living more in the moment, I have been able to take advantages of experiences and opportunities that have led me to the next next interesting place. As a result, I think, I have become more creative in the way that I "advance" over time -- progress is not necessarily a, b, c, but can be a very different and surprising path.

This is my current incarnation -- in my past I was a college; job for one year; law school; law job; a, b, c, -- type of person. My life is more interesting and creative now. (Though part of the fun is possible because of the education.)

Hmmm, I have no idea if this comment is at all responsive.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that living in the moment (enlightenment?) and being goal-oriented are diametrically opposite and that you can't live in both worlds. I think the closest you're going to get is living in the moment and fine-tuning your intuition about what is right (allowing your full range of senses to shape your decision... eyes wide open) and trust the future to work itself out. I don't claim to be an expert here.
posted by chef_boyardee at 3:18 PM on November 15, 2007

It may be helpful to think of a goal as an attachment.
posted by rhizome at 3:20 PM on November 15, 2007

Response by poster: Claudia,

I can't say whether your comment is "right" or "wrong" because ideas like these are always subjective.

One thing I'll say is that this whole "confluence" idea is a radically different way of looking at this problem. At least for me, because I haven't looked at the issue that way.

So, yes, your comment is very relevant to this question and also very interesting.
posted by gregb1007 at 3:35 PM on November 15, 2007

How do you recognize a present moment as ...

Just do it. Enjoy the present moment and enjoy how you're doing great constructive things that are enhancing your life.

There's really no contradiction here. "Being in the moment" doesn't mean that you should ignore the future, or prance around happily wrecking your own life.
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:46 PM on November 15, 2007

I tell myself that someday I will 'break through' but in the meantime I need to do the labor to get there. So even though I look forward to the future, I accept that I have to do some suffering now to get there. I also accept that there's a good chance that succeeding may not really make me one ounce happier, but thats a small gamble I'm willing to take.

Secondly, I think that people who skip past the suffering stage of life turn out to be pretty shitty at whatever they are trying and eventually everyone sees them as someone who doesnt deserve their success or at least has not properly earned it. They also seem to lack maturity and wisdom. Two traits that are very difficult to fake. So whatever happens, I still have a good amount of 'mental wealth' that has real value and that other people recognize .

I also imagine that over-thinking this can become a bad mental habit to have. A little letting go and a little patience goes a long way. I think the more you rush the future the worse both the present and the future become.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:47 PM on November 15, 2007

I take joy from the little things. A good meal, a glass of wine, a good walk with my dog, a job well done or an expression of appreciation from a coworker. If you focus on the big things in life, you get overwhelmed.

A good analogy might be that you have a canvas before you that's your life, and a picture next to it that you use for reference. The canvas may not end up looking anything like the picture, but it's your art and your expression -- it's up to you to do what you want with it. You can take joy from how you render someone's hand or the expression on someone's face, or throw a few whimsical "happy trees" (channeling Bob Ross here...) in one day and paint back over them the next day...

And you've always got that little picture there that you can take out and compare to see how well you're doing. The choice you have to make is how often you want to take the picture out, and how you're going to feel when you do it.
posted by SpecialK at 4:24 PM on November 15, 2007

something imperfect that will have to be changed

The answer is to recognize that it isn't necessary to change imperfect things.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:44 PM on November 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Very similar question being discussed over at Zen Habits, with lots of responses.
posted by jbickers at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2007 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: jbickers, wow... Thanks! That link really does deal with my question!
posted by gregb1007 at 5:47 PM on November 15, 2007

It's a little hippie dippy to say that the journey is the destination and yet having that in my mind as I do whatever things I'm doing helps me realize that.

So, you can have a goal that involves changes and differences like "find fulfilling job and move to better apartment" and you can have goals like "have a lot of interesting stories to tell my parents next time I visit so we have something to talk about" Goal #1 will involve some apartment-hating in the meantime etc, but Goal #2 specifically requires that you have experiences and interests that make good stories as opposed to just getting through them to get to the end of whatever path you've set up for yourself.

Again, I realize this sounds cliche, but Iv'e found that writing stuff down [postcards, my blog, maybe photos, this right here] has helped me appreciate some stuff for what it is, not where it falls along the path to Someplace Better. I can stop moments in time and maybe if I can't reflect on them right at that moment (thought I try) I have them to look back on as I move forward. That sort of continual cycle -- capture, preserve, reflect, plan -- helps me assure that my plans are grounded in the present as well as looking towards the future.

So, multiple goals help, reflective time helps and also for me just making sure that what I'm doing right now isn't JUST a doorway elsewhere. If I don't like where I am now, at least somewhat, then in my universe I have to move whatever goal state I'm aiming for to get me out of that mess ASAP because general happiness, not just future happiness, is part of what I'm after.
posted by jessamyn at 6:57 PM on November 15, 2007

paying attention to your senses seems to help me. i'm always planning six steps ahead, but i find that wearing perfume i really love, or some soft piece of clothing, or having a bite of something delicious really helps ground me in the moment, too.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:13 PM on November 15, 2007

If I may be (extremely) cheesy...

You are the captain of the good ship Gregb1007 and you navigate her through treacherous waters. You have goals in mind, distant shores, exotic locales, and you set your sails accordingly.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy each and every moment of the trip. Comraderie with your shipmates, enjoying your store of rum and seabiscuits (??), singing umm, boating songs and having a jolly good time along the way. For who knows what squalls lay just beyond the horizon and may keep you from those distant shores and exotic locales.

in short... Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, but make sure to set your course just in case you don't.
posted by ian1977 at 8:17 PM on November 15, 2007

Our consciousness isn't binary; you can alternate between identifying what is wrong with the present state and start actions to improve that, and just accepting the present state for now while you go sequentially through those improving actions.
The thing to watch out for I think is being goal-oriented all the time to the exclusion of smelling the roses.
posted by jouke at 12:34 AM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

You could enjoy and feel good about your current direction, as opposed to your current position?
posted by martinrebas at 6:20 AM on November 16, 2007

> How do you recognize a present moment as a stepping-stone, something imperfect that will have to be changed, while still enjoying that moment and feeling good about it?

Make it a pragmatic, logistical thing-to-check-off, the final step in the plan?

"[ ] save up $1,000 [ ] stop & think about the very significant coolness of that"
posted by WCityMike at 12:01 PM on November 16, 2007

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