Why We Shouldn’t Set Spiritual Goals

Young lady hiker standing with backpack on top of a mountain and“Slow down.”


“Stop ahead.”

Last week, my brother and I went on a snowboarding trip to Whistler, B.C. Along the way, we hit a lot of road construction and the requisite traffic signs telling drivers to take their time as they made their journey north.

And I got impatient. Don’t worry, I didn’t speed. But I might have found myself thinking that age-old question, “Are we there yet?”

I’ve found myself thinking that many times over the past few years on some of the bigger journeys of life. Have I arrived at my dream job? Have I made it to the ideal salary level? Have I gotten to where I want to be in my yoga practice? Is this where I want to live? Is this love? Is this me?

In our modern lives, we’re so focused on the end goal. The destination. The final result of the equation. The stopping point where “it all will make sense,” we tell ourselves. That’s fine when it’s about the hard, objective aspects of the universe (though these are much rarer than you might realize). However, when it comes to the grander paths of the universe – your faith walk toward your Christ, or your journey toward your true love, or your path to understanding your true Self in its truest fashion – an obsession with the end destination can actually create roadblocks in your evolution.

First, it sets up an artificial list of to-do items toward what you perceive as salvation. For example, you could pick up any self-help book and say, “Ah, these five steps will lead me to happiness.” Yet your perception as a human being isn’t the same as your perception as Being, so it’s highly likely that what you think you need to do, or even the place you think you need to end up in, is not entirely accurate.

Second, focusing on what you need to do spiritually to achieve your idea of Heaven or happiness or whatever it is you think you want will inevitably move your focus and attention off of your self toward an external Other that you think can provide your salvation. In essence, this is you creating an idol, and the Bible shows that all idols will fall in the end. The Bible teaches that salvation is a matter of working out your own faith. Not working through the faith prescribed by teachers or gurus or self-help books, but working through the personalized plan of growth and salvation and eternal joy that God has placed on you.

Third, treating spirituality like a set of actions or to-do items presumes that you are static, that your soul is static, and that we are all static in our similarity. Yet your soul is unique and alive, and your spirit is alive. In the Biblical tradition, God took what was static (your earthly body) and breathed Himself into you – a divine breath or cosmic spark that experiences this universe and moves you toward the divine or away from the divine dependent on your choices to follow the divine plan.

On my trip to Whistler, while the end destination was beautiful, my brother and I were awed by the serene views and ocean vistas we saw while on our journey. The same is true in your path through this universe. The best things that life has to offer often aren’t in the end destination. It’s the things you uncover along the way: the exciting adventures you embark on; the lovers and friends you meet; the lessons learned through sorrows, joys and the everyday experience; and the new ways of thinking that are unveiled only to you and through you as you move along the path.

So smile. Relax. Enjoy each passing moment for what it is, and don’t pressure yourself into thinking that you have to hit a certain list of criteria along the way to unlock the mystery. The mystery is simply the present Now, with God as the ground of your Being. When you realize that, you have tapped into your potential for infinite joy.

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Joshua Duvauchelle is a writer and editor specializing in health and wellness topics. He earned a nutrition certificate from Cornell University in 2011, although his passion for fitness started when he was five and his parents told him carrots were a dessert. In his spare time, you can usually find Josh at a Bikram studio in Vancouver.

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