My spiritual journey started many years ago and included a time when I read The Power of Intention by the remarkable Dr. Wayne Dyer. I was always naturally a driven, motivated person and routinely set goals. Setting goals culturally was looked upon as a positive life-enriching activity.  As I have grown spiritually, I have found that there is a significant difference between goals and intention. Goals are things you want, typically driven by culture or selfish self-aggrandizing want. Things like best job, big house, more money, etc. These things are not bad in and of themselves, but can be if the ego is involved. Simply, if they are focused on benefiting you at the expense of others, they are not divine. They ultimately include competition and thoughts of scarcity, a my-gain-is-your-loss attitude. Intention on the other hand is completely driven by feelings of gratitude, joy, and love and a compassion and concern for the well-being of others. Ego driven selfish feelings cannot co-exist with feelings of gratitude, joy, and love.  Intention typically is meant to enrich the lives of others through service and feelings of abundance. Goals are meant to enrich you. Period. Intention and goals in reality then, are opposite, conflicting principles.

As I now look back at my life, I recognize that I raced past many things that I now I see were meant to enrich my life and the lives of others. Things that were divinely inspired. I zipped right past beautiful opportunities on my path to my “goals,” those things that were red herrings for success and joy.

I no longer set goals.

I frequently get blank stares of confusion when people ask me about the practice of setting goals. Libraries are full of books by leaders of thought extolling the virtues of goal setting. I’m here to tell you that unless the goals are divinely inspired rather that ego-driven, which they rarely are, they are leading you down a path that is ultimately empty and filled with regret.

Goals are typically things you want in your life. Again, in and of themselves not bad. We all want a successful career, a nice home, a beautiful car, etc. The problem is that we use those things to define our own value, and to diminish the value of other people. They are outward desires. Your value is inside you. We use those things, outward things, to tell us we are important. We use those things to divide us from other people,  i.e. the rich neighborhood, the country club, the private school. They become things laced with ego, and where ego is you will not find love. Where love can’t be found, God can’t be found. It really is that simple.

The Disease of Competition

Competition is culturally accepted. In fact, competition is considered virtuous and those who are competitive are viewed frequently as people to admire and follow.

The best athlete wants his opponent at his best.
The best general enters the mind of his enemy.
The best businessman serves the communal good.
The best leader follows the will of the people.

All of them embody the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don’t love to compete,
but they do it in the spirit of play.
In this, they are like children
and in harmony with the Tao.

Lao Tzu

(Tao Te Ching, chapter 68, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

I am naturally highly competitive. For me, winning was always a top priority, regardless of the arena. In sports, academics, work, and truly in every area, I sought to win and, in fact, relished knowing I had beaten an opponent. As I have grown and listened closely to the divine spirit in me, I have learned that competition simply drives that which is divine from my life. That then leads me to traditional “success” that isn’t where God wanted me to go and, therefore, I lost out on the growth and joy found in achievement that is divinely inspired. How does a person know that they are in a place that is not divinely inspired? Simply, do a gut check. How do you feel? Am I feeling joy, love and gratitude? Or am I feeling ego? Your gut will always tell you where you stand. Listen!