We are being given conflicting information.
We are told it is important to have goals, written, formal goals, preferably. We are told to have S.M.A.R.T. goals, to measure our progress towards our various goals and to occasionally revisit and revise our goals so we always have something we are working towards. This is how we grow, this is how we develop, this is how we make progress towards becoming the person we want to become, to achieve our desires, to be fulfilled.
We are also being told, in order to realize true happiness, we must live in the present moment. If we are focusing on the past, past events, past hurts, even past accomplishments and glories, we are prone to feelings of sadness and even depression. If we are focused on the future, future events, hopes, dreams, desires, fears, and insecurities, we are likely to be anxious or suffer from symptoms of chronic anxiety. To achieve true happiness, we need to focus on and live in the present moment. The present is the only time in which we actually live and the only time in which we have any influence, control, or ability to take action.
Goals are set squarely in the future. By setting goals and focusing on them, on a daily basis, we are thinking ahead, we are not in the present. Some of us may even being employing techniques such as visualization to make our goals more real, more tangible, and more attainable. How does this reconcile, then, with living in the present?
The key is to set our goals, and the S.M.A.R.T.er they are the better, to visualize our goals, to work towards our goals, and to revisit and revise our goals, occasionally, as needed, but to do this all in the present moment. What we need to do, is break our goals down into small, manageable bits that can be focused on and worked towards in the present, like on a daily basis. This is goal refinement; taking a large goal, our ultimate goal, and breaking it down into what can be accomplished in a year, then into what can be accomplished by month, by week, then by day. Then, each and every day, focus just on that refined bit of a goal.
Think about it, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m sure there was an overall vision of what Rome was to be before the first stone was laid. Brick by brick, board by board, stone by stone, Rome became the famed city we know of. Your goals are like Rome. Build them brick by brick, board by board, stone by stone.
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 S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound
 Visualization – visualizing or imagining your goals or desires as already complete