How To Reach Your Goals Using Mindfulness

Photo by Michael Bolognesi via Flickr.
Photo by Michael Bolognesi via Flickr.

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” 
—Thomas Jefferson

If you are struggling with reaching your personal goals, you may want to read more about how mindfulness can play a huge part in helping you set and achieve goals.

Mindfulness is a state of awareness and attention of present events and experience. It is also the openness and acceptance of the present events and experiences in your life right now.

Here’s some research showing how mindfulness can improve your ability to achieve goals. A study published in the International Journal of Well-being found that mindfulness affected personal goals, gave people a greater degree of independence, and increased their well-being. Compared to people who rarely practice mindfulness, those who practice it frequently report feeling less stressed, anxious, depressed, or impulsive. They also report being more positive and optimistic in life.

Beyond this study, I’ve found mindfulness to help me be present, happy, and relaxed, which in turn helps me be productive. And I believe it can also help you.

Why Living Mindfully Helps with Productivity

Being present can actually help you think about and work toward what you need to achieve now. For example, being present will enable you to get the resources you need now in order to build what you eventually would like to achieve in the future. If you are constantly in a “past tense” mindset, this may alter how you handle “present” situations, and you could miss an opportunity. This could mean an email, a phone conversation, or even an Instagram photo that could lead to success. If you are passionate about a specific goal, start putting energy toward it, no matter what it is.

When we think about our current thoughts and feelings, we are fully in our bodies and our minds. For example, when practicing yoga, we are present with each move we make — and when we are out of our body, we may be in an unpleasant experience, or an ongoing one — such as a bad day at work. We tend to “avoid” things that make us less present and less happy — thereby avoiding the present moment. Attending life in the present moment helps us to experience the presence of everything around us and directly connects us to ourselves where we can focus on what we need to do right now.

Accomplish Tasks by Living Life With Purpose & Acceptance

A full 40% of Americans feel that they live life without purpose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And without purpose, you may feel ungrounded, similar to a ship without an anchor. You are carried in whatever direction the wind blows, without taking full control of your life and the decisions you make in your life.

Acceptance — of all things in your life right now as it is — means to experience the present moment, even if it’s something we dislike or have not chosen. It means accepting your life experiences and history. This acceptance enables you to change what you do in your life now. Choices make us feel powerful, research shows, which is important to humans. Choice also gives us a sense of more control of our lives, which adds to our sense of purpose.

Stress: The Ultimate Goal Breaker

Stress can affect our brain in negative ways — especially our pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for our highest cognitive abilities such as behavior, planning, decision making, problem-solving abilities, and concentration. Even the littlest bit of stress can completely alter the way you think. Prolonged stress can affect the brain cells (known as dendrites) that help us to form cohesive thoughts.

Stress can come from negative thoughts. Negative thoughts can destroy any idea, goal, or inspirational thought we have and completely halt us from taking action. For example, a part of our brain that uses the fear response to dangerous situations, such as a lion chasing us, is also used when we are stressed and are thinking negative thoughts. This part of our brain is called the amygdala. Our mind becomes completely narrow and focused on the negative thought and the emotion behind it.

How can we think of anything else when our brain is focused on a lion? We fail to look up at the sky and admire the sunset, a person who is there to help, or an opportunity that may arise, which we overlook. It’s all in your mindset — being open to your surroundings or getting stuck in a negative spiral (creating a limited number of options that you see).

Negative thoughts can do the opposite of a positive thought and completely distract us from the present moment. This is because we are automatically living in the past when we have a negative thought. You can practice mindfulness more easily when you are in touch with positive thoughts — ones that are bright and full of color — instead of unnecessary thoughts.

Now…What Do You Want To Accomplish?

Knowing what you want to achieve is the first step to success. This is similar to the ancient Greek aphorism “Know thyself,” which comes from the Delphic Maxims, said to be given by Greek god Apollo. (I am studying Greek mythology this semester!) Examining one’s own thoughts and actions puts a person outside his or her body as an observer. You are, essentially, the observer of yourself. For example, you are looking at yourself “from within.” This is beautifully stated by the philosopher Lao Tzu, who said, “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”

Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

If you judge your abilities before you have experienced mindfulness and presence, you are not giving yourself a chance.

I will end with the origin of the light bulb. It took Edison thousands of errors before he used the right amount of concentrations and materials to produce the light bulb. It may take some error before succeeding. Although, as we can see, the rewards are truly abundant! Perseverance in the face of obstacles and hardship will help you reach your goals. Negative thoughts will appear in your mind from time to time — it happens to the best of us. But if you are determined to live in the present moment, it will become easier and easier. I can say so — I’ve been practicing it for years.

What are some goals you would like to achieve, using mindfulness?