If you want to reach excellence in anything, from playing the piano to learning a language you need three things:

  1. A well-defined goal
  2. practice, practice, practice
  3. equanimity

The first two points are obvious to most of us. It’s not a secret, at all. In fact, it’s almost trivial.

It’s the nuts & bolts of what a lot of so-called “life-coaches” and personal trainers teach and let you pay for.

“Set a goal and go for it.”

It’s sometimes even being paraded as the key to happiness, the magic bullet to reach all your wishes and so on and so forth.

And in a way it’s true. If you only want something badly enough, eventually with the right practice and skillful means it will occur.

This is where many writers and motivational speakers stop, saying:

“Put your passion in high gear, fueled by the visualization of your goal.”

That may sound very poetic and will get some people to move out of their comfort-zone just from the sound of it.

But it’s very short-term. And it can lead to burn-out quickly.

I don’t know about you but there is something unnatural and obnoxious about people that are constantly high-strung, running between Yoga centers and Starbucks, always telling you about how passionate, positive and empowered they feel. (Somehow I think of botox smiles and dietary supplement rants)

There’s no problem about setting goals and going for it. In fact, I think it’s a very good way to deal with life. It’s natural, alright.

But. Here’s a fact many people won’t tell you: Desire might be a motor to get you towards your goals, but you’ll need loads of equanimity on the way so you don’t break down or start annoying everyone around you with your over-goal-orientedness.

Equanimity? Big word. I’m not talking about Zen gardens or “re-connecting to your inner child”. Quite contrary, I like to translate it into modern language by use of the phrase: “Not Giving a Damn”

This is where many people will go into shock.

Yes, you heard right. Forget about your goals. Forget about path and progress. Be completely oblivious.

Then, practice!

A fine distinction

There’s a big difference between equanimity and indifference.

Indifference is passive and dull. It’s a sort of defensive reaction to life. (Since you don’t care enough, you try to protect yourself by pretending that you aren’t interested in anything and “too cool to be touched”.)

Equanimity means maintaining stability in the face of ups and downs. It means not going down into the cellar with your failures and not ballooning up into the sky with your successes. (you can still act out both as a form of theatrical play but your mind/self will stay centered.) Whatever happens, you don’t give a damn, which doesn’t mean that you reject or act defensive. But it means that you are able to have a good laugh about the perceived importance of you, yourself and your goals.

In fact, let’s do it right now: Let’s have a great laugh about all of this!

Over-practicing and being too target-oriented makes a person sore.

Each time you laugh about yourself, the feeling of self-importance can’t maintain its grasp due to the shaking and you see how deeply it had already sunk its fangs into the fabric of your life.

Thus,  equanimity (next to practice) may be the most important factor for reaching your goals.

There’s an old almost cliché phrase in German that says: “In der Ruhe liegt die Kraft” (In calmness there lies strength.)

But it’s true. Not giving a damn is one of the best energy-sources. Again, we’re not speaking about indifference but equanimity. Not being overly attached to path, progress and goals can save you a lot of energy that would otherwise go to waste worrying about imaginary failures or successes. (it is quite funny, isn’t it?) Not giving a damn lets you put your energy “where the money is” – meaning: into practice.

Also, since we’re speaking about it… Setting and reaching goals is not a guarantee for happiness. But it can help you stay sane. In other words: It’s not so important what you aim to do, how long it will take you to get there, etc. – It’s just a way of keeping oneself alive and awake – not dropping into passivity and a feeling of being “at the whim of nature’s forces”.

So, the next time you’ll read a overly-hyped blog or listen to a motivational speaker that throws around with superlatives as if there was no tomorrow – shrug it off – and continue to practice.