We live in a goal-oriented world. Our lives are about having tasks and being productive. We read self-help books to learn habits to become more productive or to be effective people. There is nothing wrong with being productive and effective in our tasks at work or at home. In fact, it is necessary for us who live within the existing capitalist system to work and provide for ourselves and our families. However, the system has caused more stress by urging higher productivity and accountability. Moreover, it is not about having tasks or goals that cause us stress. It is our wrong attention that causes it. Here are 5 ways to work happily towards our goals.
1. Have a goal without focusing on it
The first of the 5 ways to work happily is to have a goal without focusing on it. All of us enjoy making one goal after another. Without a goal, we feel lost. With a goal, we may feel stressed. We could be stressed by the number of tasks to achieve the goal. Or we are stressed because we are not meeting our goals. For some of us, having the goal of achieving a certain position at work, earning a certain salary, or sending our children overseas to school is why we live.
Often it isn’t having goals that make life stressful. Rather, it is our expectations that create stress. We enjoy making goals by visualizing the enjoyment of when it is achieved. However, when we get there, the result may be different from how we visualized it. It’s like when we plan on going for a holiday. We may have images of our enjoyment of it in our minds. But the moment we get there, the place, food or the people do not meet our expectations. Sometimes even if we have tasted the experience we expected, at the end of it, we may feel empty.
Therefore, have a goal in mind but keep it at the back of your mind. Like a sailor who has a destination at the back of the mind but focuses on the weather and the conditions of the sea at present.
2. Be proactive and enjoy the moment
It depends on what your goal is. If it is a short-term goal such as achieving something outside of work, one could suffer from procrastination. Procrastination is the result of thinking that one has enough time. The truth is, it is an illusion to think we have all the time we need in the world. This illusion is even stronger when we are young. The Covid 19 pandemic has taught us that nothing is for certain. We are not sure if we will contract it, or how we will react to it. Keeping in mind our time is limited can help make us proactive. Being proactive means noting down what is important to do in our free time and reducing what is not important. It also includes giving ourselves time for a break.
If it is a long-term goal, it is important to stay patient. Many of us spend most of our time in the office. Time in the office may feel dreary because we may be working for the sake of the family. However, it need not be this way – where some feel they sacrifice what they love for families. Whether it is a short or long-term goal, the important thing is to be present with each moment.
Many of us live for the fulfillment of a goal. But the truth is, it is all the moments and not the goals that sum up one’s life. Spend some time alone and reflect on which memories come up the most often for you? Was it your own happiness or happiness with others? Do you only remember only the big events or moments that are fulfilling? Even if our goal is for the sake of another, it does not mean we cannot make each moment fulfilling.
3. Recognising others’ success
We often have ourselves as the center of attention in our goals. Especially in the workplace. Some may climb the corporate ladder through selfish means. Or we may neglect others’ well-being at the expense of what we seek to accomplish. Such as being insensitive to others’ needs and goals. We also may not celebrate others’ successes as we wish for our own. However, in our society, nothing happens without others’ contribution. We are all interdependent on one another for our lives to function. Therefore, if another person enjoys success, we can also treat it as our own. Even if we don’t see it, we have also in very little ways contributed to others’ triumph. Their successes also remind us that we too can triumph.
4. Learning to listen
Most of us enjoy talking and speaking our views. Very few of us actually listen. When we talk about ourselves, we may miss out on information that could help us with our tasks or goals. Opening our minds to ideas depends on our ability to listen. Those who are closed to listening often champion their own ideas as being right. Or else they close the potentials of what could be by being enclosed in their own belief systems. One of the 5 ways to work happily towards our goal is to learn to listen. By listening, we become open to ideas. Through listening, we learn empathy towards those who help us. It is also through listening we understand others as well as the world around us so we may learn to navigate through life and goals better.
5. Placing our attention at the right place
This is the most crucial of the 5 ways to work happily towards your goal. We have to check our minds. Is our attention always on the prize we want to get? What is your attention fixed on most on a daily basis? Or, is your attention all over the place by being busy with surfing the internet and playing video games, or chatting on the phone and watching TV?
Whether we have goals we want to achieve or not, a wandering mind always leads to negative thoughts. This shows that the nature of our minds is to enjoy paying attention to something rather than being all over the place. It takes a discerning mind to realize this.
But wrong attention also refers to being obsessed with our tasks, goals, and our expectations. Using any means to get what we want without paying thought to others’ well-being is negative. It is negative because we fail to recognize point number 3 – that everyone, whether we see it or not, has a little role to play in where we are now. What we want to do depends on others’ decisions and not just our own. Being attentive to others’ feelings and needs as we are to our own also contributes to their willingness to aid us when we need help. It is to treat others as to how we like to be treated.
Placing our attention in the present moment also helps us rest our minds. We use our minds every moment to do something. It hardly gets rest. Unlike the body, which we rest in a spa or on a comfortable couch. Sleep is not considered rest since we dream. Even when nothing is going on, we think of irrelevant things. When we are in between tasks or appointments, instead of loading the mind with more to think about, it may be more fruitful to place the mind’s attention on the breath. That is because the breath and body are always in the present moment, but the mind is not.
Mindfulness, the practice of being in the present and knowing what is going on in our minds can help us become attentive and to work happily towards our goals.