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Another new year has begun and if we haven’t felt the urge to set new goals then we are often reminded by those around us with the annual question. What is your new year’s resolution; what are you going to do better this year? But, is this the best way for us to enjoy life or create a meaningful existence? Schools continue to encourage students to set goals, to strive to improve, to move forward. At the same time, they have also embraced mindfulness as a way to combat increasing levels of anxiety and depression.

Are goal setting and mindfulness compatible? Psychologists explain that goal setting requires us to not only think and plan for future outcomes but fundamentally it requires a dissatisfaction with the present. There is no dream future if we are happy with who we are and how we are living. Studying to achieve a goal is not focussed on the enjoyment of learning but only on its ability to help us achieve something in the future. Hence it feels like a chore and we can’t wait for it to be over; to enjoy our hard-earned future where everything is better than it is now. Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of our present, without judgment. To notice the sights, sounds, smells around us, our impact on them and their effects on us. For those that have tried, this is not easy as our minds have ensured our survival by planning and calculating. But goal setting is more than forward planning it is driven by a philosophy of perfectability; a belief that there is an ideal that we should be progressing towards. What if my goal is to become more mindful? Is that wrong? Is it self-defeating? Or is it merely a shifting of our understanding of goals from a search for improvement to one of understanding?

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