Some further thoughts on goal setting as it relates to self-improvement:
Most of the self-help programs out there (at least, the ones that charge a substantial fee and consist of more than a single volume book) assume that the reason you are seeking out their assistance is that you feel unproductive. Of course, for most that unproductivity is measured in terms of accumulated monetary wealth, dissatisfaction with your career or job path (of course, the corollary assumption is that any job that does not lead to the accumulation of personal monetary wealth cannot be satisfactory), a lack of friendships (and therefore a lack of networking by which to accumulate monetary wealth), or a separation from “normal” behavoir that is proven to result in, with the right sort of guidances, the accumulation of monetary wealth.
Self-help programs, in short, seem to focus on ONE thing: getting what you want. Of course, the more complex the program, the more difficult it is to actually define what you want — as a result, the failure to achieve it can always be blamed on your inability to accurate define it.
While the focus is on that one thing, the method for achieving that focus always contains another key element: TIME. Not only are you focusing on getting what you want, but you’re focusing on getting it NOW. Centerpointe Technologies, for example, uses as their selling point that you are able to achieving a deeper state of meditation than Buddhist monks. Bear in mind that most Buddhist monks who achieve the level of concentration and mental states we’re talking about here have been meditating for 20 or 30 years, and in fact, that state of meditation is the purpose for their lives, in a sense. The key to meditation as a spiritual pastime is not just the state of “Nirvana” that you reach, however. The key to meditation is what you learn about yourself by spending 20 to 30 years thinking about it. It is this missing link, the span of time required to actually “build character” so to speak, that is missing from accelerated learning, or quick-time self-improvement programs. The fact of the matter is that until you’ve spent 20 to 30 years thinking about what your goals are, why you picked those goals, and why you require goals at all, the goals that you set to achieve in a super-accelerated meditation program are NOT going to be all that useful — because without that time under your belt, you’re not going to really have an appreciation for those goals if and when you achieve them.
Live a happy and productive life according to a standard you have inherited and probably only somewhat understand. That’s the goal of many self-help programs. What they don’t tell you is that by circumventing the time-span process, by short-cutting the mountain path, you’re bypassing the difficult and necessary process of figuring out your own standards. Of not setting goals, or achieving victories on someone else’s playing field, but in fact taking the time to change the game itself.
Using a time-honored motivational mantra, like, “See the good in everything,” doesn’t work unless you first realize that there is bad in everything too — that there is a necessary balance between black and white, up and down, right and left, on and off. Hyping your circuits so you are ON all the time is not the answer. Using 15% of your brain, rather than 10%, is only useful if you think about things that people using only 10% don’t think of. And learning what that five percent is, requires more than just accelerating your own agenda. It requires looking, as Kurt Godel might have said, at the agenda that is not contained in the set of all agendas. At the goals that not only represent your personal ambitions, selfish desires and private fantasies, but that force you to transcend the personal, selfish and private to understand that whatever CAN happen, DOES happen.
So I wonder. Doesn’t having the ability to meditate more effectively than a Buddhist monk imply that I should be acting as if I were a monk-plus? Doesn’t gaining more intelligence, insight, serenity, personal power, etc. imply that there must be more than myself that must benefit from this increase?
What about the maxim “From whom much is given, much is expected?” I have NEVER seen a self-help or personal improvement program that said by increasing your self-value, you increase your obligation to the universe.