Stepping into greatness and out of unhappiness with dynamic goals Aristotle and Ego Series.
What is happiness to you? Do you think it is something you achieve, and then forget about?
Think about the last time you achieved something. Did it make you happy forever, or did your longing for more come back soon after?
Read on to find out how you can escape the trap of unhappiness. Otherwise, youll be stuck in the endless cycle of seeking and not finding.
Along the way, however, it has developed into something much different, and can also be considered part of the Ego Series. You dont have to have read that first post, but some concepts will be easier to understand.
This is my second favourite post, and one that contains some of the concepts I struggled to understand and implement but once I finally did, I have gotten a lot out of.
Another long post, nearly 3500 words, split over several pages, so please Save This Page at Del.icio.us for further reading. While youre at it, please StumbleUpon (links at the bottom) this post as a sign of support as well, thank you!
Doing Happiness and Success
This article is about the final and most important statement from my summary of Aristotle’s works on happiness and success: “Happiness and success is not a state you achieve and forget – the happiness lies in the doing, the continued living.”
All the previous statements we have discussed ties in to this.
Virtues are not virtues if they are not used. A man who merely has charitable tendencies is not charitable if he doesn’t actually donate.
Having all the trappings of success don’t mean anything if you don’t use them. A flashy car isn’t worth anything if no-one can see you drive it. A hot girlfriend doesn’t mean anything if you don’t… take her out for romantic dinners.
To be fair, Aristotle also mentions that people who have virtues will have a strong tendency to want to use them, just like people who have a mansion will have a strong tendency to want to live in it.
How does this apply to you? If you’ve followed the previous posts in this series, you will probably have a highest good in mind. The last step is to make sure it is dynamic. The remaining sections move away from Aristotle, and into one of the greatest secrets Ive learnt in my search for happiness.
The Static Goal
What are static goals? Static goals are what most of us strive for. We go for having a good job, having money, having fame, having a hot lover, and on and on it goes.
All of us have achieved static goals before, big or small. Think of one example now, it doesn’t have to be your highest good. Maybe you were overweight and wanted to drop to a certain weight. Did it make you happy?
Most likely, you were satisfied and happy for a period of time, then the sense of emptiness the sense of not being enough returns. “What’s next?” You begin asking yourself.
Now that you’re slim, you begin noticing the people who are toned. So you kept working out. After you became toned, you began looking at the celebrities, with their magazine cover bodies. So you started working towards that.
Do you think that would be enough? Are you satisfied? When does it end? When is enough, enough? It is common wisdom that comparison will never make you happy. It is also common wisdom that you will never be the best in everything.
Even if you had the perfect body, you would begin to dread losing it. And, as it inevitably fades, you suffer the pain of losing what you are so proud of. This is the structure of the ego. Ive covered that in great detail in my original ego post here.
Now, Im not saying you shouldnt have goals, or that you shouldnt want to improve your lot. It is human nature to expand. But how can you expand and be happy at the same time?
The Dynamic Goal
The answer, of course, is the dynamic goal. What are they? They are goals that you do, not have.
Instead of aiming to have a body like Brad Pitt or Jessica Alba, make it your goal to work out. The act of working out is dynamic. Instead of wanting to be a famous writer, aim to spread your message via your words. Instead of wanting a hot lover, aim instead to love someone.
Can you see that this simple shift is the best thing you can do? There are so many levels to this.
On the level that we are discussing the search for material success the dynamic goal means that you are more likely to get what you want. Think about it. If you make it working out your goal, it will be all you want to do, and the hot body will come naturally as a side effect.
This is so empowering and yet so easy to misunderstand that I have to state it again. Dont make it your goal to have a great body, make every little action you take along the way into your goal.
This also solves a little problem that personal developers have how do you unite the need for self-acceptance and the goal of growing?
A quick exercise:
Take a moment to list out all your static goals right now. At the end of the article, you can go about changing them into dynamic goals. Dont throw away your static goals, though, for they are still helpful in a way as milestones that you can reward yourself for, perhaps but always make sure there is a dynamic goal behind them.
What is greatness
Back to material success: What is greatness? What is a great goal and what is required to reach greatness? A series of “small” steps. Weve already discussed getting a hot body. Lets go into something bigger building a Fortune 500 company.
Does a company like that come in one move? No. It is composed of a series of actions that make up something we call great.
Lets break down the creation of a billion-dollar-a-year company:
1) Create product
2) Sell millions of it
Lets break down the creation of a product:
Lets break down the brainstorming process:
1) Organise for designers to get together
2) Organise meeting room
You know what we are breaking down now:
1) Call first designer
2) Call second designer
If we want to, we can even break that further down. Picking up the phone. Pressing a number. Pressing a second number.
But I hope it shows what goes into achieving any goal. It makes sense that to reach a great goal, all the actions along the way have to be performed greatly. A series of mediocre actions make a mediocre result. A mediocre carpenter will make a mediocre bookshelf. A great carpenter, doing his job half-heartedly, will also make a mediocre bookshelf.
So, how do we make each action great? If we see each action as our primary goal, or even better, our life purpose, is that not the way to do everything to the best of our ability?
Everything will fall into place as best as they can if you make even calling a designer into your life purpose. It all spreads across like a virus. A good call makes a happy designer. A happy designer makes a productive meeting. A productive meeting makes a good design. And so on. For the metaphysically minded, the vibrations you send out will also flow into each action you perform, increasing the quality even if there is no obvious external effect.
Am I being too harsh?
Do we have to break down our goals in such fine detail? No. Its easy to remember whatever you are doing right now is your goal.
Your goal is to sit at the computer and read because thats what you are doing. By treating the reading of this article as your primary goal, you are absorbing and critically analysing as best as you can.
The phone rings; you pick it up. That is now your goal. If you do so, you are doing the best you can in that moment. And so it all adds up until you achieve greatness.
This is what many of the great spiritual texts are teaching us: Now is the only time we have. Life isnt simply happening now, it is Now. If youre not friendly to Now, you are not friendly to Life, and how can you beat such an enemy?
If you are thinking, I will do my best in the future, when this and that has happened, or when I find something that I love to do, think about this: when the future arrives, it is already Now. If you can grasp this idea, that is the end to all the procrastination, concentration, and time management seminars and books.
When, and how, are you going to find something you love to do? The Science of Getting Rich states that a person can only advance when he or she gets too big for their current position. Its logical. Its going to be hard for something you want to fall into your lap if you dont advance yourself and you can only advance yourself by being good at whatever you are doing now.
The dynamic goal and your happiness
Am I raising my standards too high by saying you should make it your life purpose to pick up the phone? Or are you thinking that it is stressful to make everything you do into your life purpose?
On the contrary it is the key to a stress-free life. But lets tackle the positive side first.
If you are doing a dynamic goal, your happiness can never end, for you only stop doing when you want to and why would you want to, unless youve found something even better?
Now: What about unhappiness? Making everything you are doing into your life purpose removes all inner resistance to it. That way you can never hate doing anything again. Isnt that wonderful?
Back to a more everyday example. A couple days ago, I had agreed to a long and tedious favour for my aunt, typing up some marketing material for her company. Other deadlines were rushing closer, and I was getting stressed and frustrated.
It was building to an unbearable breaking point when I suddenly remembered to see my primary life purpose as typing her marketing material. My secondary life purpose was to help her company achieve success.
Why? Not because she asked me to; not because I was trying to be a good nephew; but simply because that was what I was doing then. It was empowering – the material came out as good as I could make it and most importantly, I had no inner resistance to it, and it could not make me unhappy. I have covered this before, in this article How to be a rock in a chaotic world.
The misunderstanding of Aristotle
Before we continue, let me return quickly to Aristotles works.
I believe a flawed interpretation of his philosophy is the result of much anguish in our society. If you simply look at his works without going in-depth, you will think that unless you have health, wealth, and a perfect body while living the life of your dreams, you are a miserable failure.
His greatest statement is that happiness lies in the doing. Health and wealth, simply allow someone to do better and capitalise on opportunity to do so better. This is common sense. But many people make mistaken it to mean that you NEED all those things. You dont. If your love is to fly, youll just as happy flying in a rickety crop duster as you would be in the latest jet fighter.
You are always living your life purpose
Back to the life purpose. Why did I mention that misunderstanding? It causes far deeper pain and misery in the world than my simple example of a favour I didnt want to do.
I was recently watching a video of Byron Katie working to counsel a depressed woman. The subjects pain was obvious in her features even though she did her best to hold them in.
She had been sick and grossly overweight, stuck in her room for the past few years. As a result, she felt the same way many of us do that life has passed her by, and that she had wasted precious years of her youth. She also felt that she was so fat that she couldnt attract a mate, and would probably die lonely.
Isnt she a victim of a wrong interpretation of Aristotle, who has possibly influenced most of our current society? Further, her pain comes from her static goal, an image of herself as she should be. Do you recognise any of this pain in yourself?
When she was sitting alone at home with a static goal, she saw herself as a bedridden, hideous hag, dying a slow death, floating further and further away from what she wanted.
It would have been different with dynamic goals. When she was lying in bed, too sick to do anything but watch television, her primary goal was to lie in bed and watch television. Her secondary purpose was to find a mate, and lying in bed as she recovered was the only thing she could do to fulfil that.
With that mindset, she could enjoy the process and not resist it or make it wrong. There is no unhappiness in the search for a lover. There is no unhappiness is being alone, obese, or in bed, except when her thoughts make it wrong. Happiness, as modern medicine is starting to recognise, is one of the best fixes for ill health, and her acceptance would have sped her recovery.
Thinking any other way is the seed of suffering. Resisting what she had to do would be fighting Life, fighting Reality, fighting what is. And you cannot win against life. We have discussed this before, but it is helpful to revisit the concepts with a more painful example.
Many people also think that non-resistance means putting up with whatever is happening to you forever they would have thought non-resistance means that she should lie in bed for the rest of her life. I hope this example would explain otherwise.
One more example to drill it in and clear up any possible misunderstanding (forgive me if I err on the side of caution). Someone is bound to ask if a tribe of cannibals is torturing you, is that your life purpose? No being tortured is what is happening to you, which is very different from what you are doing. Your secondary purpose is to write or fly or whatever, your primary purpose in this moment, to fulfil that, is to get the hell out!
Can you grasp what I am trying to say? Its the same as the example of my aunt, just on a deeper level. If you can understand it, isnt it the end of sadness?
For the metaphysically minded (others can ignore the next two paragraphs), another reason she was in such deep pain was her ego. Again, this was covered in detail in the ego post. In fact, weve actually been talking about the ego all along for the ego goes away when you are in the mode of true doing.
Her ego caused her to compare herself and the other women she sees If everyone around her was fat and alone, would she be suffering so? She wasnt lacking anything, only her ego told her she was lacking something. Her ego was telling her that she needed to be slim and married to be happy. In the end, Byron Katie helped the poor woman see past the ego. I think, and hope, she has found some genuine peace.
Another error people make (unless theyve read Part 3) is the idea that their highest good is external. Often times the highest good is internal a sense of happiness, a sense of peace. Why do you want to be in love? So you can feel happy.
If your highest good is an internal state, you can achieve it by removing the ego as covered in the ego post. In that state, all the external things, lower on the pyramid, would be mere icing on the cake.
How do you know if you are doing?
How do you know when youve reached the state of pure doing?
This state does take practice. Your mind will be tempted to start wandering. Lets say you are working in an office. As you sit there, typing, the thoughts will begin creeping in I should check my email. This is boring. Whats for dinner? I wonder what Julia is doing. Sometimes the thoughts are bigger worries that have been in the background for a long time When is my next pay cheque? Is he doing a better job than I am? Will I get fired? Is Julia going to cheat on me?
Just be aware of these thoughts and focus your attention on the task at hand. Remind yourself that it is your goal at the current moment. Like any practice, you might get frustrated and give up. But stick with it. Slowly youll find your awareness and concentration grows. If this sounds like meditation to you thats what it is! Imagine the power of meditating 24 hours a day instead of 10 minutes a day.
How do you know when you have achieved this state? Can you remember the last time you were engrossed in something so completely that you lost all sense of time? When you suddenly look up and realise that hours have passed without you even knowing? That is the state of doing.
What time was it? Now. Not the future you are worried about or the past you wish never happened. Where was the doubt, the fear, the thoughts of lack and urgency? Gone the only thoughts you were using were the thoughts you needed to do your job. Fear, doubt and unhappiness only have a space to return when youve snapped out of doing.
In sports psychology, this is often called The Zone. A common quote is There no longer was any me, there no longer was any ball. I became one with the ball and the action. We were no longer separate.
Many traditional martial artists also work towards this state when there is no ego and all there is, is the doing. The greatest masters of the past have espoused this state of mind as the secret to their skill.
Bring this state of mind into your lifes work, and watch the results roll in.
End of Showdown
Thats the end of the Aristotle series. Hooray!
Ill be busy for the next few weeks Im pursuing a degree in psychology while working full time, and exams are coming up so posts will be slower for a few weeks. Please forgive me.
I might take the opportunity to experiment with shorter posts, or list posts. They seem to be more popular with the standard blog reader than the long posts that I normally type.