In last week’s Monday Message I mentioned my own tendency to gain self approval only upon reaching goals with constantly moving targets. I know for a fact I’m not alone in this; natural human tendencies leave us always striving to do more, whether it be mechanization, invention, or just overall growth.
This is ESSENTIAL to fuel worldly progress. Communities would collapse in on themselves if humans just stagnated in growth and stopped making efforts to improve themselves and each other. But many people, especially those identified as “Type A- people”, center their entire life around this never ending pursuit of goals. These goals quickly multiply in intensity and the amount of labor they require from people. Constantly chasing these goals can lead us to a state of exhaustion and permanent dissatisfaction with ourselves and our lives.
The Book of Ecclesiastes talks about our labor on earth and what it really means. The Author of the Book contemplates the ephemeral nature of work and how working for ‘things’ is grounded in vanity. The Author even suggests that the pursuit of knowledge is grounded in vanity, which is directly contrary to the Word of God in the Quran that mandates humans to pursue knowledge. Although Ecclesiastes is a difficult book to interpret and fully grasp, (it was written by a human, after all), there are some gems within this book that I think many of us can relate to and apply in our own lives.
“All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied” (Ecclesiastes 6:7) .
Like we just talked about, we are NEVER satisfied! It applies both in a purely biological sense (we get hungry eventually even after a big thanksgiving dinner) and in a figurative sense (we can finally get that purse we’ve been lusting over but satisfaction from it will quickly dissipate when its thrill wears off).
So if we go about our lives centered on chasing things that we THINK will bring us satisfaction, we will be trapped in a never ending marathon course that is just an infinite series of loops. When we really take a minute to consider what we are chasing after and WHY, we can centralize our goals and our own purpose.
The only goalpost that is unwavering in position, unable to move up some hierarchy, is the one that you need to revolve your life around. These goals are the ones that seem to be too broad and unspecified because they aren’t things you can check off of a list. For me, my overall goal in life is to help people and always be with God. I really can’t imagine getting anything more than that. My pursuit of this goal influences my everyday actions, career choice, and expectations I put on myself.
Often, I let this overarching goal be overshadowed by smaller goals that give me temporary but fleeting satisfaction. This year, I am challenging myself to no longer do that. I will continue making and having goals ranging in size and subject…. but there is only ONE goal that I will allow to override everything else. The pursuit of this goal, the chase of it, is the one thing that is constant in my life.