Goal Setting and the Vedic World View

“The problem with goal setting, generally speaking, is that it’s based on an object-referral concept. Right now you’re unhappy, if you set goals and get productive, then when you achieve something, you will arrive at a kind of beatific state of happiness, and the fact is we all know that that’s not true.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

The “hustle” culture of modern life has put extra emphasis on the pursuit of goals and attaining them through ever increasing busyness and unrelenting productivity.

While goal setting is not a problem, per se, Thom explains that the level of importance people place on them can be problematic.

The challenge lies in the notion of, “I’ll be happy when…” This is a false premise. The thought that something outside of us might bring us happiness is a recipe for disillusionment and a misguided search for external fulfilment.

A better approach might be, “I’ll be happy, then…” or’ “I’ll be happy, and…” Rather than making happiness an outcome of a goal, make it an input into a goal.

Subscribe to Vedic Worldview

Apple Podcast logo
Stitcher Podcast logo
Spotify Podcast logo
Google Podcast logo

Episode Highlights


The Relevance of Goal Setting



The Problem With Goal Setting



I Am an Exporter of Happiness



Rigid Attachment is a Bad Habit



A Trifecta of Ideals



Find Fulfillment First


Jai Guru Deva


Goal Setting and the Vedic World View

[00:43] The Relevance of Goal Setting

The question has to do with the relevance of goal setting. And there’s a tremendous emphasis from certain quarters on the importance of setting goals and being super productive. 

I think that what we need to do is examine, yet again, the question of, ‘Who is the author of such desires? Is the author of the desire to set a goal me, individually? Am I the author? Or am I being inspired by my higher self to set goals and to be productive?”

We know ourselves that when we are doing whatever it is that we find fascinating and charming, other people might look at us and think we’re doing really hard work or diligent work. But to us, it may feel as though we’re just playing or having fun, and hours and hours could pass.

One could go for 15 hours on a particular thing and not get tired or feel as though it’s in the least bit laborious. In those kinds of cases, what’s happening is our inner consciousness is cognizing the current purpose, the current usefulness, of our individual form and function. Cosmic intelligence causes us to desire certain things and motivates us to move in the direction of that desire and the fulfillment of the desire.

[02:05] The Problem With Goal Setting

The problem with goal setting, generally speaking, is that it’s based on an object-referral concept. Right now you’re unhappy, if you set goals and get productive, then when you achieve something, you will arrive at a kind of beatific state of happiness, and the fact is we all know that that’s not true.

When we achieve, we don’t suddenly go into this beatific state of fulfillment. What happens is we get to the top of that mountain and we look out and we see 15 other mountains that we have to scale. And we, once again, postpone our fulfillment.

The Vedic worldview says, find fulfillment deep inside you. In that transcendent state, when you meditate, awaken the fulfillment layer inside of you and then you’ll find the fulfillment layer deep inside of you. You will find highly productive things for you to be doing and that will bubble up in the form of desire.

[03:03] I Am an Exporter of Happiness

And certainly you can set goals. You can have a look at that and say, “Well, it looks as though there’s a cascade here. If I do this, that might lead to that. And if I do that, that might lead to that.” But the difference is that the non-attachment to which you refer in your question is not to become detached from the fruits of action, but not to put all of your desire for happiness on the fulfillment of certain things.

So that is to say, “If I am the fulfilled one, carrying out activity that is helpful, then I’m exporting my fulfillment everywhere I go to the world. I’m sharing it with the world. I’m an exporter of happiness. If I’m trying to set goals and be super productive so that I can become happy…” then you won’t. You won’t become happy. You might be super productive and all that, but you won’t be happy. You’ll just be looking for the next project and postponing your happiness.

[04:03] Rigid Attachment is a Bad Habit

So have the happiness now where it is deep inside you and carry it with you into all of your activities. And then rigid attachments  to specific timings and outcomes is a bad habit because you might be halfway through a project and discover that it’s put you, halfway through it, on a platform from which you can see an even better thing to do that is at a tangent to what you had set out to do in the first place.

Rigid attachment to getting fulfilled by achieving is what causes people to tread right across the interest of others, to carve an indelible path through the laws of nature and make a thing happen, irrespective of what the negative effect or impact is on others or on nature itself. And that basically is what you read about in the newspapers every day. Problems that we have in the world from people having set goals, irrevocably, and they’re out to achieve them because they truly believe that happiness will be some achievement.

[05:08] A Trifecta of Ideals

Usually it’s a trifecta of ideals. The trifecta is, “I’ll have lots of adoring people around me who only ever say yes and smile and never argue. Probably because,” part two of this, “because I have lots of dollars in the bank account, you know, dollars, pounds, pesos, whatever it may be, in the bank account. 

“And one of the bits of evidence of it will be I’ll have wonderful architecture all around me with fantastic views and the light shining in, in certain ways on the beautiful floors and carpets and everything. And everywhere I go, it’ll just be a sheer delight. And one of them isn’t enough. Let’s have six of them, one for each of the six main continents. 

“And let’s have a boat, a giant boat, maybe one as large as a five acre boat that can take me from one of my residences to the other of my residences, so that if it means that I have to earn the amount of money that would fund a town and keep it all to myself, irrespective of how well the local town’s doing, I’ll do that because I want the people who say yes. I want an infinite amount of dollars in the account. 

“And I want all of these chunks of architecture dotted around everywhere so when I get bored of one of them, that’ll be about a week, then I’ll be able to move on my five acre yacht to the next one. And then get bored with that one, we’ll build a move to the next one. Then that’ll be fulfillment.”

[06:36] Find Fulfillment First

Now, most goal setting, and I’m making this into a caricature intentionally, has to do with obtaining one or other of these three things, “Money, smiling yes people, and fantastic architecture, and then I’ll really be happy.” No, you won’t.

How do I know this? Several people who have all three of those things, which I just described, have asked to become clients of mine because they experienced the trifecta and they’re grossly unhappy.

They didn’t get happy from it. And now they want to learn to meditate, to find where real happiness is. So we find fulfillment first and then let that be our inner impetus to setting goals. And with goals, we don’t get rigidly attached because activity and action and achievements are not about fulfillment. They’re about taking whatever fulfillment you happen to have to the world.

Jai Guru Deva.

Read more