In the beginning of 2022, is it good for us to set goals basing on our desire?
One day during my Christmas holiday, I went to have a nice lunch with my husband. When I arrived at the restaurant, I went to the toilet. While I was washing my hands in the toilet, the cleaning lady inside the toilet causally asked me if I had my lunch yet. I friendly replied to her and she smiled. Then I saw her taking out her lunch box and started to eat inside the toilet with content and happiness. This simple interaction with a cleaning lady inside the toilet before my fine dining making me reflect on the fact that I might not feel the same content and happiness as this cleansing worker feel, even I was going to have a very nice lunch in a nice restaurant. It seems that happiness and contentment do not directly correlate with satisfying our unlimited desires in our lives. If this is the case, do we need to totally eliminate all of our desires when we set goals? If we have no desire, how can we set goals?
In the beginning of 2022, many people will set some goals in different aspects of their lives, such as workout regimes, dietary plans or financial goals. Underlying these goals, there are our desires for health, beauty or wealth. It is understandable for us to strive for having a healthy body, being physically attractive or accumulating much wealth. In fact, it is our responsibility to take good care of ourselves and satisfying our own desires. It is our natural tendency to strive for a better lives. As human beings, it is impossible for us to totally eliminate all of our desires. There is nothing wrong for setting goals according to our desires. However, it is only that if we grasp our desires too tightly and try too hard to satisfy our desires, we became trapped and might suffer from our striving. It is quite common to see people experience addiction, anxiety and depression when they strive too hard to achieve their goals and grasping their desires in an extreme. As a result, these desires became insatiable and they desire more and more without feeling true contentment and authentic happiness.
On the other hand, it may also not be beneficial if we do not have desire. In recent few years, many young people started to live a lifestyle of reclination (in Chinese, “Tang Ping”). They adopted a lifestyle of total nonstriving and complete relaxation. They did not work or study, they simply tried to do nothing in their lives. In fact, this lifestyle may generate sufferings, such as poverty, poor health, or social disconnection in the long run. This striving to do nothing in an extreme is also problematic. Without goals in ones’ lives, it is impossible to achieve true contentment and authentic happiness too.
How can we set goals in the beginning of 2022 without striving to satisfy our desires in an extreme? We need to learn to be mindful and stay present for the arising of our desires and our actions or plans to satisfy these desires. Through mindfulness practice, we need to learn not to identify with our desires. For instance, we can set some goals for managing our health, appearance, or wealth. It is important that we are not identifying too much to become a very beautiful or a very rich person. When we are being mindful at our actions towards striving to achieve our goals, we can adjust our behaviors and avoid being addicted to the striving. Furthermore, when we try to relax or let go of our striving, we can also be mindful of not going to the extreme of complete reclination.
There are a lot of variables contributing to the situation of the cleaning lady whom I mentioned above. In fact, many of these variables are uncontrollable and important for why this lady ending up to be a cleaning worker inside the toilet. I reflect that I can learn from her true contentment of being in her position and still setting some achievable goals in her life. I can imagine if she desires to have a fine dining experience in the restaurant that she is working for, she would suffer from non contentment and unhappiness all the time. When we set some goals for 2022, let us try to be mindful of our desires and our external situations. It is important for us to strive a balance between being obsessed in striving and being totally reclined. Let’s set some achievable goals in consideration of our desires and stay mindful for our actions towards achieving these goals.