Photo by Nityia Photography
                                Dora Gyarmati.

Photo by Nityia Photography Dora Gyarmati.

Redefine goals based on virtues to find joy | Health column

A monthly column about mindfulness and wellbeing.

  • Wednesday, September 11, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

I left you last month with some journaling homework around goal setting. But as I turned in my article, I realized I did not give you enough tools for smart goal setting.

Even though the Eastside Reporter newspapers are super patient with me because I overstep my monthly-column word allowance all the time, I still find it hard to squeeze everything in a single article. Looking at the bright side, I hope that keeps you reading.

Let’s revisit goal setting one more time because getting the right mindset for target achievement can make or break a person, sometimes for life.

From last month’s article, we already know that it is crucial to examine our goals, to get clarity on why and how we want to achieve our vision — to focus not just on the target but also on the journey, on the process. But believe it or not, if you get stuck in the materialistic external, performance-oriented mindset, even if you achieve your goal, you will still be unhappy.

The ultimate satisfaction in life comes not from external achievements but rather from internal, “moral joys” — this is what David Brooks writes about in his book “The Road to Character.”

In our culture there is an abundant focus on what Mr. Brooks calls “resume-based virtues,” that is external-action-driven, production-driven traits. Most of the self-help book section is about how to make you more successful, more beautiful and more abundant. We seldom talk about “eulogy-based virtues,” meaning human traits that one would be remembered upon death. Eulogy-based virtues examples are humility, convictions, wit, empathy and relatedness.

Our current culture glorifies the self, Instagram, and the selfie-stick is the pinnacle representation of the self-oriented phenomenon. We praise materialistic achievement and celebrate everything with a trophy. Humility as a virtue is all but forgotten.

Ironically, we are never remembered for our resume.

During a eulogy, one talks about relationships. When we remember a loved one at a funeral, we talk about their character, their morality, how they were relatable, lovable and honorable. These are not necessary characteristics that would make a person successful financially, and definitely not things highlighted on social media, but these are traits that make a person “rich” in humanity. Often to succeed in moral virtues of human character, one must struggle, fail and humbly bow to adversity. It is adversity that builds and creates depth and moral integrity (adversity as necessity is a whole separate article, but let me not digress). One may or may not succeed on a resume and have nothing to brag about on Twitter, but still feel at the end of life, that they lived with integrity, depth and meaning.

On the other hand, success on resume-based virtues can lead to a significant weakness such as pride, self-centeredness, and at the end of life despite all the success one can feel hollow and alone.

Of course, ideally, we somehow keep both resume and eulogy-based virtues in balance. We may aim to have it all, but I say that is impossible. Character and morality often face materialistic world in opposition. For a lucky few they may not contradict, but for most of us, there is often a choice, and going against one’s integrity — despite all worldly success — always leaves one empty.

That is why we need to redefine our goals based on virtues. We don’t talk much about virtues in our society anymore. The word has been reduced to prudish associations. But moral attributes are the thing that gives meaning to our life.

What moral characteristics are vital to you? What are your convictions? What personality traits will you have to cultivate to achieve your practical career goal? Focus on that, live your life daily according to moral integrity, and no matter what happens, you will feel content. Not happy and not proud, but simply, quietly, humbly content, with no need to tell anybody of your achievement.

Dora Gyarmati teaches yoga and mindfulness classes. She owns Spira Power Yoga studios with locations in Issaquah and West Seattle. Her company M3Bmethod also lectures on resilience and stress management to corporations, communities, and hospitals.

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