When I was a young boy, I took up the trumpet. For about twelve weeks, and then I quit. The instrument was too hard, and I hated practice.
In my early twenties, I signed up for voice lessons. I quit a few months later, after the first recital and my failed attempt at Les Miserables’ Master of the House. Once again, I had hardly practiced - finding it painfully monotonous, though I loved the song.
And yet, in both cases - as well as many others - I had gone in with the best of intentions and a clear goal.
And then I realized that goals were the wrong way to go about achieving growth and success.
The challenge with many goals is that they actually hinder progress. They define achievement as some future state that may result if events transpire a certain way. And until that occurs, you are continually failing.
It should come as no surprise that the greatest musicians and failed wannabe’s had the same goals.
It’s not the goal that matters.
It’s the systems you put in place to achieve goals that makes all the difference.
With ineffective systems, you get my experience for so many years. A distaste for practice and a swift giving up.
But there is one procedural component that makes all the difference. And that’s by observing our thoughts rather than being caught in them.
In most cases we are like a chariot rider who hasn’t taken the reins. The impetuous horses run off in varying directions as we get pulled to-and-fro.
We’re caught up in the drama of life, the goings-on with our body and the bodies of others we care about. Fretting about from one situation to the next. Without ever realizing there’s another way. A better way.
By paying keen attention to our thoughts, awareness returns to the mind where we can re-take the reins and drive much more confidently in the direction of our dreams.
Along the way, a curious transformation occurs. The practice, which once seemed like drudgery, now becomes joyful. An ease and lightness flow through all our initiatives. And we meet with a positive result far in excess any traditional goal might have envisioned.
As we read in A Course in Miracles:
Try to observe your passing thoughts without involvement, and slip quietly by them. While you practice in this way, you leave behind everything that you now believe, and all the thoughts that you have made up. Properly speaking, this is the release from hell. (W-pI.44.7, W-pI.44.5)
Join me in Thursday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of goals, planning, and practice — and how we can use our thoughts to lead us to extraordinary peace. I look forward to seeing you then.