A Buddhability Guide to Setting Goals

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Writing the script of our lives.

Goals come in all shapes and sizes. Hyper specific: I will be hired at this design firm on July 14 and wear this outfit on my first day. Or a general feeling: I’d like to become less judgmental. Goals are amazing. They are a picture of the future we want that we paint with our hearts and minds.

Here are four ideas on making goals and achieving them.

1. Write Your Goals Down and Chant

Buddhism teaches that you are the screenwriter of your life. Neither chance nor external forces write the script for us; we do. If our life is like a movie, then writing down our goals is how we write the script. Dr. Gail Matthews did a study of 267 people and divided them into two groups: people who wrote down their goals and people who didn’t. The study showed the people who wrote down their goals were 42% likelier to achieve them.

A dream is something you work for each day, even when you don’t feel like it.

It’s also good not to just write down our goals once, but to copy them again and again so we engrave them in our hearts. As Buddhists, we can also focus on our goals as we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Not only does this help to reaffirm our goals each day, but chanting enables us to defeat the negativity and doubt around our goals.

2. Do Something Each Day

What’s the difference between a dream and a fantasy? A dream is something you work for each day, even when you don’t feel like it.

Behind Maya Angelou’s stunning poetry are the tenacious efforts we don’t see. In Daily Rituals, she describes her writing routine as waking up at 5:30 a.m. and starting to write by 7 a.m. each day. Even when it’s going badly. Sometimes she works so hard that it causes strange physical reactions in her body—her knees swell up, her back goes out or her eyelids swell to the point that she can’t see.

Girl standing on a ladder reaching for a book in a bookstore

Photo by Ty Feague / Unsplash

Buddhism teaches that wisdom and ingenuity come from effort. That success is just another name for repeated, tenacious effort. Though it can feel impossible to keep up, each of us is capable of it when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and tap into our Buddhability.

3. Small Goals Add Up to Big Ones

Within each big goal are many smaller, daily goals. Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda writes:

Small things matter. Right or wrong, small things accumulate and lead to a major difference in the results. That’s why the best way to achieve your important future goals is to pay careful attention to your minor daily challenges and triumph in each one of them. Nichiren Daishonin writes, ‘If a person cannot manage to cross a moat ten feet wide, how can he cross one that is a hundred or two hundred feet?’ Small challenges, small successes, repeated again and again, become great victories and flower into a life of glorious success.

Nov. 10, 2017, World Tribune

4. Keep Going No Matter What

Hitting a wall is actually proof we are truly challenging ourselves. Even if we don’t hit the goals on our timeline, the fact that we are disappointed means we truly care and are moving in the right direction. Some notable people actually set “rejection goals” to go along with their big goals. The thinking: If you receive 100 rejections in a year, then it means you’ve truly tried and are making progress.

What’s the worst mistake we can make? It is to give up.

Success is just another name for repeated, tenacious effort.

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