Being a follower of the philosophy of Taoism I find myself returning to the Tao Te Ching time and time again whenever I feel the need to be reminded of a basic set of fundamental rules to guide my life. As basic as these principles are, it is so easy in today’s high-speed culture to lose site of the little things that can add up to so much. Having said that I would like to share with you one of Taoism’s strongest teachings, and one that I find so helpful with regards to my career: Focus on the path and the goal will take care of itself.
Unlike today’s goal-driven society Taoist masters only ever speak of “the Way.” In fact “the Way” is the closest translation we have in the English language to describe Tao. So many of us find ourselves so bogged down and distracted these days (often self inflicted) that we begin to miss the little steps. The ones that often lead to bigger problems. As a result we regroup and try to regain some level of control. What we often do next is try to rectify our shortcomings by coming up with a goal or list of goals in order to maintain focus and help us keep our eye on the prize. They’re often big ones too; a better job, major weight loss, get out of debt, learn the piano, etc.
While it is sometimes nice to dream about those end results, seldom do they wind up becoming more than dreams. What Taoism suggests is to focus on the path. If you spend your time paying great attention to the task at hand and can manage to always (or as close as you can get to always) stay in the moment you will find that the goals will, in time, begin to take care of themselves. It is much easier to go out to lunch and make sure you only allow yourself to take in X number of calories than it is to constantly think, “what can I eat today that will help me lose 40 lbs.”
Nowhere in my life has this principle helped me more than at work. I know I am forgetting my fundamentals almost as soon as I drift from my path. I learned only over the last couple of years that I need to stay on top of the mundane day-to-day tasks that eventually catch up with me and ultimately cause me more problems then they are worth. The big jobs are no problem. Projects have never been the issue. The paper work, on the other hand, always used to slow me down. Once I started putting this principle into practice I quickly learned that I could be a much more successful and reliable employee.
Sure there are hundreds if not thousands of books out there that will tell you to come up with a clear and detailed list of goals, write ‘em down, and keep ‘em where you’re forced to read them- ya know, to let you know what you haven’t accomplished today. Maybe you’ve even tried the goal method and it works great for you. If so, congrats! However, if you’re like me and so many of us out there that just can’t seem to take the leap toward what can seem like such a massive undertaking, you might want to hop on a path far less daunting and take it one step at a time.