By M.K. Styllinski
“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not
know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”
Reading time: 18 minutes
21st Century culture can be overwhelming in its intensity and the sheer rapidity of change. There is so much information entering our eyes and ears 24/7, it’s no wonder that we end up on auto-pilot the majority of the time. It’s similar to that state of mind one might slip into when one sit’s in front of the TV after a hard day’s work. You know, that slack-jawed, jelly-limbed creature that disappears into the sofa with only enough energy to click through hundreds of digital channels spewing up innumerable variations of the same utter shite to gum up our brains. When you mix in constant stress then dissociation is often not too far behind.
You don’t have to veer into dissociation to be habitualised to a kind of daily automatism, though the lines can be somewhat blurred. But if you spend a significant percentage of your life either day-dreaming (living in the future or the past) as a response to never having achieved what you really yearned for, then it’s time to defibrillate your life. Which why it is crucial to have a vocational passion that makes life worth living.
“What’s the point?”
Having an aim and an array of objectives means to orient ourselves away from chaos and into the arms of purpose, meaning and order. It provides structure against a sea of endless choices and sub-variables. Anyone that says they have no aim in life is lying to themselves. Everyone has an aim, even if it’s extremely modest. Most of us are dissatisfied with our lot and are seeking ways to improve it. Initially, that means seeking a short-cut to having our cake and eating it. But that route never provides what we really need, which is clarity and the courage to implement what we have honestly discovered. Such a realisation can continue for literally decades, especially if we are averse to change and covet security and the safety of routine.
Secretly many of us have dreams which take a battering from fate and circumstance leaving us stoic, bitter or “philosophical” about what we’ve decided can never be. Some of the rationalisations I’ve heard for dropping those dreams over the years are I’m sure, familiar to you…
- I’m too old to do that now – it’s a young man’s/woman’s game
- Too much time has passed – I wouldn’t know where to start
- What would X think if I decided to do that?
- I’m not good enough
- X tried that and she couldn’t make a living
- My father/mother wants me to follow in his/her footsteps
- When would I find the time?
- I don’t have enough money
- It’s not practical right now
Procrastination and consummate bullshitting are high on the list of human weaknesses. Sure, the above examples maybe entirely justified, but there is never a reason to give up on your dream, your aim to do something that you enjoy and which is part of who you are. It might be necessary to adapt, re-evaulate and compromise a bit, but one has to truly want to bring that dream down from the realm of fantasy and into the world of action.
You might have found considerable resistance from activating those goals in yourself or your friends. Practical suggestions to get the ball rolling for those in love with their fantasies will be seen as unhelpful, even threatening. All they really want is a sounding post to complain about how difficult their life is and some sympathy for their “miserable” existence. They don’t want to be reminded that they essentially lack the will and character to begin taking the steps to ground their dreams in reality. Or, we can have those same conversations with ourselves and which persuade us to remain in the same space without venturing outside of the customary. We can easily project our own dissastifaction by offering advice to friends to do what we have chosen not to do. That sage advice becomes a mirror of our own inaction.
Does that sound like you? Does the rejection of opportunity and comprehensive change come from fear or a very legitimate stagnation out of your control?
I’m willing to bet the reason most people don’t follow their dreams is that it seems way too difficult in comparison to the routine of the familiar which has become entrenched and “comfortable”, despite the constant desire for something more. But that isn’t the kind of ambition which incorporates persistent effort and sacrifice required to actualise our dreams. Rather, it’s the habitual tension that comes from an opportunisitic and anticipatory mindset that wishes everything to be delivered on a silver platter.
Resentment and envy tends to lurk below the surface when they come face to face with those who have made a success of their lives. They are seldom happy for those people since success – large or small – reminds them of their own inability to act. It’s easier to gossip and look for a person’s imperfections and then inflate them for critical mileage. Without that release, depression, anger or other neuroses are the result. Fear ensures that this equation of passivity to action are irreconcilable.
In one sense, “better the devil you know” has some logic to it. After all, who wants to wave a hand at chaos and invite it in for tea? But that’s the path of the hero and there’s no way around it.
Any leap into the unknown demands courage to face the risk of failure. If you get the timing and preparation right, you can limit the propensity for it all to go pear-shaped. Problems come when we don’t have enough humility in the face of the Dragon of Chaos that loves to vaporize Knights on a quest to restore their personal Kingdom. And that means gaining the right skills necessary to fight that beast of burden rising up within us and in the Kingdom at large.
Doing what you love and honouring the aim of your essence is potentially an act of disobedience toward those who seek compliant and fragile human beings as a means to prop up their global system of debt slavery. Chewing on the cud of short-term gains is a false economy which isn’t just financial – it touches every aspect of life. To bring your aim alive means to take a long-term view of what might be possible – should you choose to step outside of Official Culture’s imposed limitations.
One thing I believe wholeheartedly at this stage in my life, there will come a time when you realise that to do justice to your fundamental aim – even if you don’t know what that is – you must stop and face yourself. To face the unpalatable, weak and downright pathetic elements of your personality that delight in keeping you (and others) in a place of servitude is part of this journey. To take responsibility opens up the channels of communication within and in the outside world. But you have to make that leap (even if that leap seems to go on forever) before reality meets you half way. There is no room for negotiation or recourse to emotional insurance should it all go tits up (which it will, more than once). Innocence and trust will usher in what you need to fulfil your aim, even if that takes a while.
We can pretty much do anything. The trick is to create a mind (and/or body) that’s up to the task.
pixabay.com | So many choices…Which door will you choose?
“If only I’d tried”
If you find yourself in a situation where there are a multitude of seemingly logical reasons why you “can’t” and “shouldn’t” entertain your dreams then it behooves you to question those negatives very deeply indeed. You need to make sure that this isn’t society, peer group and/or parental programming calling the shots. Or worst of all, it’s just you being spineless. The latter can last a lifetime and can make old age a truly tragic existence with each zimmer-framed day filled with those dreaded words: “If only I’d tried…”
We are are living and breathing on this Earth for an infinitesimally short period of time. If you’re going to be fearful about something then keep that little nugget of future-truth firmly in your mind when you next put off your dreams. Sure, you might fail but failure is a whole lot better than never trying. And its the trying – the doing – that opens up exciting possibilities over and above the risk-factor of pain and stress.
A dream that still lies in the back of your mind and floats into conscious awareness when you’re commuting to work or doing the the laundry doesn’t have to be a flaky fantasy and it doesn’t have to be impossible. People love stories of those who succeed against the odds and fulfill their dreams. There is no reason at all why you can’t be one of those. It may be toe-curlingly difficult, it might take you years and years…Or it may just fall right into your lap from being in the right place at the right time. But the potential to change your life is there, whatever your circumstance or situation. You just have to make a decision to do it, come what may and make a promise to yourself to never to turn back.
Your aim might be to open a flower shop, stop drinking; sing in a gospel choir, make more money; write a book; become a comedian. Whatever it is, EVERYONE has an aim (whether they know it or not) and EVERYONE can actualise that aim. Why? Because it’s the only obstacle to its manifestation comes from an exaggerated sense of our own limitations. It’s our attitude made up of non-porus boundaries of belief that determine what we will or will not do. It’s just a matter of re-directing that energy from defensive manoeuvres to offensive strategies so that belief in yourself married to planning and preparation dissolves the external dimension of delays and obstructions. Instead of running headlong into the same old walls, we understand what those walls are made of, why they are there and how we might circumnavigate them. We might discover how to use the energy of that impasse or obstacle in a way that adds to our primary aim and for that we need to get creative and adaptable to context. Such challenges and hardships are necessary to make our aim into something worthwhile. Our enemies can teach us and flesh out our aim to greater meaning and power.
So, it seems, regardless of whatever it is you would love to do, if you haven’t worked on yourself and discovered all those internal blocks to progress, the efforts you expend on achieving your aim are likely to be a) stymied by the glitches and gaps in your awareness, thus making the journey a lot longer and more circuitous b) unsustainable and open to loss due to all kinds of hubris and the unnecessary obstacles the unconscious mind will introduce in order to wake you up. Being wise to this, means we might be in a position to continually re-visit that aim in order to refine it to greater creative purpose.
In case the difference between an aim and the objective isn’t clear, try this: aim establishes the intention (what) while the objective is the step (or steps) to achieve that aim (how). The aim is the mountain peak and our goals/objectives are the stages of ascension and the rope and crampons are the skills we develop along the way. We might call the process the encapsulation of all these elements in every step we make from A to B; C to D and so on. These stages are ends in themselves. In that respect, the primary aim is replicated in fractal fashion all the way up the Mountain. We enjoy each vista, each accomplishment and new experience for its own sake.
Having a clear aim and its objective(s) in life acts as a compass to navigate the emerging map of your life. Meaning and purpose derives from those starting blocks and dictates the experiences you will have along the way. Hope and positive emotion isn’t enough. A healthy respect for unpredictability, the unexpected and limitless possibilities is a good driver of purpose. Happiness is not the primary goal here. It arrives through the process itself and the achievement of objectives which may deliver you to your ultimate aim. Or…Reality may change things to something better. We have to stay true to that aim but be open to the Universe’s inherent unpredictability.
The greater our flexibility the less likely our overall aim is prone to breakage and dissolution. We can’t always know what it has in store for us, but we can be fully present to the changes we set in motion. Therein lies the source of happiness. Paradoxically, the process becomes enjoyable by letting go of the aim. Even though it’s still there for us, we allow it arrive by giving our full attention to daily life. If we emphasize the quality and creativity over quantity and short-term gain, such wise management will facilitate the best possible outcomes without us having to stress or obsess that we are not doing enough. Structure your time wisely and get to know who you really are then your energy is economised and the trajectory of your flight toward your goals more true – literally. That means accepting that quality takes time to grow.
Conversely, most of us have probably carved out a life designed to limit pesky incursions from the unexpected and uninvited. I have friends and relatives who are meticulous in their planning and preparation to the point that they believe they have total control. They are like dictators over their personal fiefdom of needs and necessities. And that’s great. Being disciplined and organised is a useful skill. It becomes problematic however, when we become so identified with those goals and the structure through which we have come to rely on that there’s a danger of ossification. When change arrives over which we have no control we are likely to be extremely ill-prepared in the face of all the internal disruptions it will cause.
Too much structure and personal rules can atrophy our ability to cope when things don’t work as we wish. Our aim and its objectives must be elastic and fluid. If not, then they’ll become like any other goal: prone to shatter and along with it our presence of mind. Objectives are like scouts from an army with the aim as military general. The scouts will find “depots” and friendly “villages” amenable to your aim. And if not the final resting point, they will replenish your stocks. (You’ll see why as we continue through the list). The daily process into which our dreams flow must be set up in a way that incrementally adds to the long-term aim.
Having an overarching aim in life acts as the primary building block upon which your objectives can rest. With a firm foundation, our motivation and will can be more easily channelled toward those stage by stage objectives. Our aim has to be unassailable and imbued with faith. Our objectives create focus and a means to measure progress. They keep our attention present and undistracted. Most importantly, they encourage taking action (even if that means inaction in some instances) and self-responsibility.
Our aim doesn’t have to be grandiose, nor does it have to be pedestrian. You can think in limitless terms provided you a crystal clear about the effort involved and no wishful thinking plays a part. Be realistic about your talents and abilities but don’t listen to voices of doubt. If you need to learn more skills – be it sport or education, art or business – then incorporate them into your objectives.
What if you don’t have an aim?
In the context of the 31 the overall aim is self-growth towards transformation, a process that never really ends. Once you reach that Mountain peak you’ll meet a panoramic scene that offers even bigger mountains stretching into the horizon. You might say that these 31 qualities underly all external aims and determine their success. Each of those may have sub-goals to achieve those qualities in order to transform. So, if you slowly but surely, set out to accomplish as many of these qualities as you can (provided you have the correct intention and framework for action) the resonance you set up from that aim will naturally collect responses which increase your scope of choices.
So, having an aim and objectives is a good thing right? Right. But there might be cause for coming at it from a different angle. Things aren’t quite as simple as looking outward into the world and choosing the ultimate reward. There are certain assumptions and presuppositions which lie at the heart of our culture and which need to be transcended.
The dramatic rise in depression and anxiety in children and young adults was discussed in Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning And Purpose. There has been a decline in the ability of young people to hold on to a sense of destiny in their lives. Their feeling that they are not in control of their life-purpose is often expressed as a lack of self-control in daily life. There are pressures which have their source in misguided parenting influenced by dodgy social science and continuing dominance of a cultural narcissism that places extraordinary importance on material acquisition, group identity and self-image. The result is that children and young adults are thrust into the world without the internal wherewithal to cope with it. External reality becomes the barometer of meaning. And since placing our trust in material dividends is like erecting a stone house on quicksand it’s no surprise that some folks are feeling overwhelmed.
It isn’t just millennials and generation Z that are cracking under the pressure. We are all products of this relentless drive to be someone and “make it” in the world. But what exactly is the dominant reality right now? A long ladder to corporatism? Smart society? Reality TV and one-size-fits-all economic model that has everyone emracing debt slavery until the next financial crash?
How do our aims and objectives fit into a culture that is at war with itself through its children?
It seems the education system and parenting need to reflect a change in those aims so that less importance is placed on the external locus of control in favour of an internal locus of control. Manage the latter and the former will follow. Indeed, there appears to be a casual relationship between the rise of an external focus, the decline of an internal focus and the rise in anxiety and depression. Factor in coercive schooling, the decline of play and the narcissism of technology it’s no wonder kids don’t know where they are. If children are not allowed to develop their imagination, to problem solve and become competent on forging a personality through play, how can we expect them to cope with the rigours of adult life?
If we do not have a solid internal philosophy of life we won’t have much confidence in allowing a resilient design to take form. We will place too much emphasis on externality since we have not had the necessary internal foundation to permit this logical but intuitive matrix of knowing to germinate. The inner ecology will continue to die. If that is the case, then the unpredictability of external reality is the only recourse to establishing a sense of destiny. If purely extrinsic objectives are valued over intrinsic objectives then it’s a recipe for psychic disaster.
Intrinsic development is concerned with self-growth, learning and understanding in the present. It is through experience and mistakes that we reflect and develop meaning, thus purpose. Extrinsic focus is about the future, relying on other people’s opinions, material gains and is wholly tied to the tangible proof of results which have often been forced into being through subjective desires. When unrealistic goals are a product of entitled fantasies which never materialise then the resentment discussed above and the consequent lack of self-control tends to be the result.
So, maybe we need to fall back on the same ideas discussed in the Happiness-Unhappiness Seesaw, namely, that this is a process, not wild anticipation imbued with fiery emotion chopped into feverish and stressful objectives – with no resilient foundation. One way to do this is to re-imagine how our aim and objectives might work together by shifting our attention toward systems.
Systems over objectives?
If our overall aim is to build a house and our overall objectives are to buy the timber, the windows, fix the plumbing, do the electrics etc…Is there a way we can make things easier? Can we gather these goals/objectives under one banner such as a “system”? Might that change the nature of the momentum and the general aim in a positive or negative way? This fits with my own experience of life in general: that it is the conscious attention to a process of becoming taking place in the present rather than fixing our eyes on a future result. Attention to the process produces the result without interference.
Author and life coach James Clear has some very interesting things to say about life goals and its relationship to systems theory. He believes objectives/goals are next to useless unless we have a good open feedback system in place through which our objectives can be housed and arranged. They are however, not the primary focus. For Clear, it is the system and the process that occurs within it.
For example: If you’re a budding politician your aim is to get to Congress. Your system is made up of how you network, who you network with; what conferences and local and regional events you attend; what financial interests you lobby for support; what training you implement.
If you’re an artist your aim is to create your most ambitious work yet. Your system is to sort out what ideas might work; where you will source particular paints; how much time you will devote to this per day; what research will you do in terms of ideas and materials needed.
So a system is made up of goals or objectives that may fit into various stages which support the overarching aim. And it is the careful design of the system that takes precedent over the aim. It is a journey of discovery first, the results of which are steps of revelation. If you become identified with the aim then you lose the enjoyment of the process. If the objectives within the system become a mini-reflection of the aim in themselves – objectives become an end, in themselves.
For instance, your aim is to start a business. You work in a job you hate and it doesn’t earn enough money. You have no time to do anything you wish, and you feel like the proverbial hamster in the wheel. Your confidence and self-esteem is at an all time low and something has to change. For such an aim to become something other than a day-dream you need to begin to implement objectives that move your desires in the right direction. That means starting small, beginning with a plan – that’s your first objective. Such a plan might include a list springboard objectives:
- Core interest – Find out what you’ve have really enjoyed in your life so far. Working with young people? An interest in psychology? Gardening? Carpentry? Commercial design?
- Abilities – Once you’ve figured that out it’ll be easier to appraise your abilities in that regard. Make a list of what you are good at and what you find challenging. What do you need to do to accentuate your talents and to develop the skills you need to move you forward in your chosen area?
- Training – Find out about training courses, online or at evening classes. There are many available that are free.
- Networking – Make a list of people you know who might be able to assist you. Put the word out. Think about local and regional festivals, seminars and conferences. Consider joining online meet-ups in your area of interest.
- Build your knowledge – As you begin to make this list – and if you are on the right track – you’ll get flashes of insight as to what you need to do in order to go forward. Economise your energy and replace activities that give you little to activities that nourish your plans.
- Make a plan for the next month, the next six months but no more.
If you have no idea what you want to do then you can use networking and building your knowledge to draw out your vocation. It might be necessary to see a careers counsellor or do something like the self-authoring program here, and begin to understand your own personality better.
This list gives rise to your system and allows a process to emerge. That becomes your life.
Go slow, go gold
Remember, this isn’t a race, even if you are desperate to change your life. This is as much about re-calibrating your psyche – that Grand System – as being true to your aim. Indeed, they should be one and the same. So, go slow. Changing your life from a pinball slamming into any and all obstacles in a bid to take meaning by the scruff of the neck never works. You’ll get a lot of experience, sure, but it’ll be a crapshoot as to whether you repeatedly open the door to chaotic hell over and over because you’re blind to the deeper messages life is telling you, or groove something constructive and lasting.
If you get “lucky” and grasp that golden ring which satisfies your ego rather than your essential self it’ll just be more camouflage. A genuine aim and its process must conform to your highest ideal – beyond the usual mediocrity that culture offers us. Otherwise, you’ll reach your goal only to realise that it was just a product of your parents’ or peer group programming.
It was in my nature for decades to rush from one new experience to another. It took me a long time to discover the complex roots of that. There was so much misdirected energy mostly due to fear: fear of committment; fear of being found out; fear of discovering that I might be useless; fear of life itself. Because life is a horror show. I knew that. And didn’t particularly want to be here. Yet, here I was and as a consequence, I was missing the jewels in the simplicity of everyday moments.
Running away from ourselves, thus our hopes and dreams, is an endlessly repeating pattern which leads to a limbo that will eventually force you to address the deeper elements of your Self anyway. There are an infinite variety of systems into which we are nested that cater for our every infantile whim because growing up is just too overwhelming. And boy, there are a lot of immature little boys and girls out there who think that maturity is found in the gaming skills of sexual conquest; a 4X4 next to the Astroturf or the ideological banner of angstivism and group identity.
To become mature and wise is to be able to look back at our experiences – good and bad – and extract the gold.
To have a genuine aim and crystal clear objectives means you are telling yourself and the Universe that your are responsible and you have what it takes to see this through to the end. And if you do it right, the “end” is already present in everything you do. Then the gold in your life begins to shine in the most unexpected places.
 ‘The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders’ By Robert Gray PhD – There’s a reason kids are more anxious and depressed than ever. Psychology Today, Jan 26, 2010 | https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201001/the-decline-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders