Methods & Goals (or How to Control Your Universe)

Ask anyone what their goals in life are and chances are pretty decent that the vast majority of them will spout off a list of fairly general ideas. “I want to be rich.” “I want to live a long life.” “I want to have a great career.” These are pretty standard, pie-in-the-sky ideals that a lot of us have grown up dreaming about. Usually, these ideals are tacked on to the end of a statement like, “Wouldn’t it be great if one day…?”

The problem with stating goals in such a general way is that the likelihood of them ever actually occurring – of the energy in the universe coordinating itself to bring that goal into reality – is slim to none. One of the reasons why goals stated in such general terms don’t normally come to fruition is because they are too general. They’re not specific enough. Not enough detail. In other words, has the person wishing for these things really devoted a lot of time to what their goal is? Have they figured out exactly what they want?

Look at the differences between the following:

“I want to be rich.” VS. “I want to design a new operating system for Apple computers that will sell millions of copies and thereby make me a billionaire.”

“I want to drop twenty pounds.” VS. “I want to start a new program of walking an hour each day and cutting back on the volume of food I eat, while increasing the amount of water I drink.”

“I want to be a bestselling author.” VS. “I want to write a great new urban fantasy series that my agent will then sell for a lot of money, leading the publisher and book chains to get behind it and sell millions of copies.”

The first goals aren’t really goals at all. Nor are they dreams. They’re only a vague inkling of desire. There’s no energy put into them, so there’s no energy going out into the universe to make them reality.

The second set are indeed goals. They’re detailed. There’s significant thought behind each one. There’s real energy contained within the expression of each one. But each of them also has something else the first set does not have: the beginning of a method.

Methods are absolutely vital for pretty much every aspect of our lives as we know it. But lately, I’ve seen several people advocating an abandonment of method, preferring instead to imply that the goal is the most important thing, and that the method doesn’t matter much at all. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Within the system of martial arts I study – ninjutsu – there is a a subset discipline known as kuji-in which is derived in parts from Mikkyo esoteric Buddhism. During one of the training events held by Stephen K. Hayes he advocated against simply tossing out careless energy into the universe. The example he used was of someone desiring to be rich. So they simply repeat a sort-of mantra over and over again: “I want to be rich.” But there’s no detail, thought, or energy in the desire. So, the universe, being the universe it is, decides one day to have a tree fall on the house of the parents of the person who wishes to be rich. Both parents are killed. Now the inheritance goes to the person wanting to be rich and lo and behold, they are now rich.

“But that’s not what I meant!”

At which point, the universe cocks an eyebrow and says, “Hey, Slim, you said you wanted to be rich. You didn’t say anything about how you wanted to get that cash. So we improvised. It’s not our fault you didn’t know how to spell out your goals so there was a method to them. Deal with it.”

Detailed goals contain a method within them that enables the energy of desire to flow along a proper conduit toward actual achievement and realization of that goal.

Let’s look at this again: “I want to design a new operating system for Apple computers that will sell millions of copies and thereby make me a billionaire.”

Goal: become a billionaire.

Method: STEP 1 – design a new operating system for Apple STEP 2 – Sell or license operating system technology to Apple STEP 3 – Cash paychecks

Each of the above steps has within it its own set of steps, smaller waypoints along the path to success, that must be taken in order for the energy to continue to flow along toward the actualization of this eventual goal. (example: designing a new OS for Apple would inherently mean you would need to first learn how to code for computers, figure out how to then improve existing OS technology, and then code and debug a new OS – among many other smaller steps) Skipping or bypassing any of those steps may well cause the entire goal to derail. At which point, it’s no longer a goal at all. It’s most likely a New Year’s resolution. :)

The same thing happens in fighting. You don’t simply become good at martial arts. You have to figure out what style you want to study, how to find a good school, how to put on the uniform, how to figure out stances or kamae, how to move your body, how to coordinate your limbs and motion, how to breathe, how to stay clam under pressure, how the mechanics of striking, grappling, throwing, joint locks, weapon usage, and strategy all work. And again, within each of these steps are subsets of other steps. This is the way it’s always been taught, and for good reason. Students need a proper path – a proven method – in order to acquire skill at what they are studying. Advocating the abandonment of method in favor of the end goal is a recipe for disaster. In fact, it’s also terribly irresponsible for any teacher to espouse as it might well get the student killed.

For sure there are alternative methods to acquiring, say, an outward wrist lock (what, in ninjutsu, is known as omote gyaku) but you don’t simply say, “I’m going to get an omote gyaku” and expect to somehow achieve it without a method. That’s just silly. For beginning students, they learn a basic method for acquiring an omote gyaku – they understand mechanically how the lock works and how to affect it. More senior practitioners understand that they can get that omote gyaku in any number of ways, provided the basic mechanical method is still adhered to. But it doesn’t just happen.

Methods exist in pretty much all aspects of life. Babies don’t suddenly turn into adults. Seasons don’t just change.

And goals don’t just happen, either.

So the next time you think about your goals, ask yourself if you’ve given them enough thought and detail. Are you stating that goal in the best possible way? Is there real thought, information, and energy behind it? Once you’ve stated the goals the way they should be stated, are you then following the method that is inherent in your well-stated goal? Are you taking the steps and substeps that need to be taken in order to keep things moving toward actualization?

And if you’ve got goals that have gone stagnant or died completely, is there a way you can revive them?

Remember that the universe appreciates careful, directed energy a whole lot more than chaotic, unfocused energy. And you have a responsibility to not generate chaos as much as you can avoid doing so. Be careful with your stated intent-make sure you’ve given it the careful thought it requires.

But if you’ve done the work that focused intention deserves, then there is no reason why your goals will not become reality.

Good luck!

NOTE: when I write on topics like this, I prefer to use the term “the universe” as a reflection of my own spiritual inclinations. But feel free to substitute your own for mine. God, Jesus Christ, Allah, Mother Nature, the Buddha, Yahweh, Shiva, Mother Earth, Frank Zappa or whatever all work just as well as the term I’ve chosen. :)

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