The Paradox of Pursuit

We need focus in order to attract things in life. This is why we are told to set goals, visualize and take action toward our dreams. And yet, if we are overly attached to getting them, we often chase them away. I recently wrote a post on chasing happiness.

flow, achieving goals

A hidden surprise in Gulley Park, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Or sometimes we reach our goals, only to feel let down or disappointed. Maybe we discover that our imagined result did not hold the gold-filled-pot at the end of the rainbow like we imagined. Or maybe we realize that we have deeper, more important desires that are asking to be met. This happened to me when I pursued money for years, only to discover that it did not lead to the rainbow path of happiness as I had imagined. Fancy that!

Now I am working on more meaningful goals like my purpose to inspire, connect and help others thrive.

This is the paradox of pursuit.

There is a balance between focus and allowing, which is an art that may take a lifetime for some of us to master. Coaches and gurus are lined up on each side shouting words of encouragement like “just do it”, set goals, take action, etc. on the focus side. And telling us to allow more, accept yourself, feel the flow, etc. on the allowing side. It’s all of the above and maybe none of the above. Another paradox!

How do we achieve this elusive balance between action and allowing without attachment?

By learning to be less attached to results and more concerned with enjoying life and the process along the way toward our goals. Become like the river flowing downstream toward our goals.Then we will likely achieve both our goals and our happiness. *

*I just had this lesson brought home! I’ve been pushing to get this blog done and out before dinner. I had noticed a headache, but ignored it. I received a phone call, went back to the post, more headache, and then a second call. Finally, I took a break to eat dinner and relax on the patio. Now I feel refreshed and no headache. And the post will still go out tonight, just not as early as I had planned! 🙂

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong. ~ Lao Tzu

There really is no one right-way to live or achieve happiness and our goals. Another paradox! We must learn to listen and follow our own inner guidance. This takes experimenting and a willingness to make mistakes, learn and grow. If we make a choice and get what we wanted, wonderful, then keep doing it! If we make a choice and don’t get what we wanted, then it’s time to experiment!

Paying attention to our body signals can also help with choices. If we pay attention, our body can give us instant feedback. Just holding a choice in mind or hand, we might feel energized, which would be a sign to go forward. Or we might feel tight and restricted, which would be a sign to not go forward with that choice.

Another key ingredient is to get back up when we have set-backs and challenges. Here is another post on 11 Ways to Get Back Up. Enjoying the journey along the way is #11 and maybe the most important one!

I didn’t completely answer the question of how to balance striving and allowing in the pursuit of goals. Maybe you’ll just have to live with the paradox of pursuit and find your own balance point for flowing in life along the way to your goals.

Will you be like the gentle creek or the roaring river? Happy experimenting!

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2 thoughts on “The Paradox of Pursuit

  1. I love the title of this post so much, Brad! It is indeed easy to feel like you’re chasing your own tail (at least that’s my experience!) I remember hearing a successful actor lament that he was only as good as his last film. Life — even for us common folk — can feel that way…

    I think as long as we exert our best effort without becoming overly attached to the world’s response, we’ll be okay. But some people cannot be happy without constant acknowledgment, hence the paradox! Thanks for evoking deep thought! 🙂

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  2. Thanks Shauna, I appreciate your feedback and consistency. Deep thought I can do, taking action toward my dreams is still a work in progress! Yes, many of us find it hard to be happy or content with what we are/ have currently. And paradoxically, when we accept and appreciate, it opens the door for more! 🙂

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