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What’s “Wrong” With This Quote? September 8, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Life Balance, Mindfulness.

An excerpt from a book, The Strangest Secret, landed in my in-box today.  In the middle of the excerpt, I happened upon this quote:

Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn’t know where he’s going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry—his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing… he becomes nothing.

As I read the quote, I found it “wrong” for any number of reasons:

Donald-Ducka1.  There is no universal mandate that our thoughts “must therefore be” anything other than what we choose them to be.

“When we master our thoughts, we master our life.”

“How we relate to the issue IS the issue.”

2.  Some people will flounder in the face of uncertainty.  Others will flourish.

“In uncertainty lies all possibility.”

“Embrace all with joy.  Anything can be a gift of gold in disguise.”

Mickey-Surfer3. Happiness is the goal behind all goals.

If we convince ourselves that reaching a set destination is a pre-requisite to happiness, we are apt to be disappointed since the rewards we envision, if they materialize at all, often feel less like rewards and more like dead ends.

Happiness is not waiting for us at the end of the road ~ it’s found here and now, by enjoying each step along the way!

4.  We don’t need to know where we’re going as the path unfolds before us.  In tune with Spirit, we remain awake and aware, seeing opportunities as they arise.  We notice the winks, whispers, and nudges intended for our eyes, ears, and hearts.

“The way teaches us the way.”

5.  If we’re enjoying the journey, we win . . . no matter what happens.

“A good traveler has no set plans and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu

6.  When we are too intent on reaching a set destination, we may become frustrated, impatient, and discouraged if our goal, like the proverbial grapes, remains “out of reach.”

Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

7.  We can NEVER be nothing.

No matter what.

Accessing the authentic self is simple.  Just be.  Follow the breath to your innermost core.  Let all else fade away.

In the silent spaces between thoughts, we find ourselves waiting.

Ego despair and confusion dissipate.  Peace, Joy, and Happiness surface.

We become one with the source.

“I am that I am.”

Aah . . . that’s better!

Related Post:  How To Worry Less (Raptitude)


1. Life in the 50's and beyond... - September 8, 2014

Lots to think about on this Monday morning…. very nicely thought out. I especially like that Happiness can be found every step of the way! Have a great day.

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Thanks! When we are happy . . . it’s a win for everyone:

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

2. suzicate - September 8, 2014

Each man’s journey is a sacred quest, not to be compared with another. Same goes for the definition of success. Often answers arise from a state of confusion and anxiety as well as it is also a birthing pot of creativity.

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Some people seek power & money. Others focus on creative endeavors & artistic expression. But the common denominator underlying all our endeavors and sacred quests is happiness.

We want what we think will make us happy. We do what we do because we think it will make us happy.

Happiness is the Holy Grail.

Val Boyko - September 8, 2014

Love your clarity here! Happiness is the holy grail 🙂

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

And all that stands between us and it is the incessant chatter, strumpeting, and noise-making of our Ego/ False Self.

3. Val Boyko - September 8, 2014

I agree Nancy with all if your points. Especially 3,4,5 and 7. It makes me wonder about the perspective of this person. Reading between his lines it would seem that he is the one that struggles when he doesn’t have a clear goal or destination.
I’m going to check our what his strangest secret is.
Val x

Val Boyko - September 8, 2014

Just saw that this secret was born in 1950’s by Earl Nightingale. It was revolutionary at the time … But does seem like something my father would have said. Work hard set a goal, get ahead with focus and grit! I think we’ve come a long way and I know I am a lot happier. 🙂
Val x

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Yes! The “head down, nose to the grindstone” approach, fueled by sheer force of will (and the desire to gain approval from our peers) often results in an interminable uphill slog with new desires arising as fast as we have quelled the last “itch.”

In contrast, when we look within for guidance, we are following genuine passions.

4. ericjbaker - September 8, 2014

Sounds like that writer is projecting personal experience onto everyone else.

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Hey! That sounds like me. :mrgreen: It’s an easy habit to get into since we “see the world behind our eyes.”

When I write, I share “my truth” (not “the truth”). When I read, I keep what resonates and discard the rest. I hope visitors here do the same.

I have found over time that those who are not in my “target audience” soon drift away into other spheres and arenas.

ericjbaker - September 8, 2014

The difference between your approach and the one of the writer you quoted is that you don’t tell other people how they feel or insist they will react a certain way to a given stimulus. I’ve never heard you say, “If you don’t follow my advice, you will be miserable.” My experience here is that you say, “Hey. Here’s another way of looking at things that might benefit you.”

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Thanks, Eric. I’m glad it comes across that way. I try to avoid absolutes ~> always/never, all/nothing, black/white, and (what bugged me most about his quote) . . . “must therefore be.”

And I think that’s just it ~> when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.

Sometimes all we need to shift is our perspective.

5. Jill Weatherholt - September 8, 2014

Good stuff here, Nancy! I can relate to number 6. 🙂

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

I’ve seen people beating themselves over the head with the bathroom scale because they’ve lost 9 pounds . . . not 10.

Seriously? That sounds like a “WIN” to me.

Jill Weatherholt - September 8, 2014

Throw the scale away, I say!

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

That’s a Win~Win! :mrgreen:

6. NancyTex - September 8, 2014

I fully agree with your points NH. The author seems to place all self-worth (and future happiness) on having a goal, pursuing and attaining that goal. If I’ve learned one thing for sure, it’s that happiness is not something you can set a plan to achieve.

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

He’s dealing with his fear of uncertainty by trying to “control life.” Ha! That’s going about it the hard way. As Lennon noted, life is what happens while we’re busy making plans.

If, instead of trying to control every little thing that happens to us, we learn to accept what comes our way ~ fear dissipates. We learn to embrace uncertainty.

When we remain awake and aware, we see the best route to get from where we are to where we want to be.

7. Kate @ Did That Just Happen? - September 8, 2014

Thank goodness that quote isn’t a fact! I am learning it’s okay to not know where I’m going, but instead to just go with it – and it doesn’t feel me with confusion, I’m finding peace in the journey! Thank you for sharing your perspective on the quote, it’s good to remember that we can always see things differently!

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

His fear comes through LOUD and CLEAR, especially in that last sentence. I expect he spent his life using an external compass ~ choosing his actions based on the reactions of others.

When we let go of the desire for applause, approval, and accolades, and begin to use our inner barometer to direct our actions, we grow comfortable in our own skin. Fear falls away like the nothingness it is.

8. Judson - September 8, 2014

To quote the inimitable Sylvester the Cat, “You Never Know Where You’re Going til You get There …”

Judson - September 8, 2014

… or maybe it was Daffy Duck. One or the other, but still words to live by! 🙂

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

I love the sentiment behind those words, Judson. I can hear it voiced by either Sylvester or Daffy. 😎

So many people make themselves miserable trying to gain traction in shifting sands or struggling against the current . . . instead of going with the flow to see where it leads.

9. Katherine Gordy Levine - September 8, 2014

Pinned this one. Tired of you can be happy if only you do it. This was a good deconstruction of the quote. Thank you.

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Glad it resonated with you, Katherine. When we “pin” our hopes for happiness on anything outside of ourselves, we remain full of fear and anxiety ~> even if we attain the “object of our desire,” we are afraid of losing it.

10. Silver in the Barn - September 8, 2014

All of this emphasis on goals equaling some kind of worth is so tiresome. Why can we not have permission to just be? Go about our days in the manner that pleases us without judgment from the outside? You really did a great job pointing out the fallacies in this statement but then again, I’ve come to expect nothing less!

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Thank you! Like you, I am tired of the constant external push to “go, go, go” and “do, do, do.”

People who equate “doing more” with “being more” urge others to stay on the “Fast Track to Success” (without realizing it’s just a Merry-Go-Round going round and round in circles).

I am far happier now . . . “no longer riding the Merry-Go-Round.”

Silver in the Barn - September 8, 2014

Now that Joni Mitchell song about the carousel is running through my mind…..

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Whenever I think of getting off the Merry-Go-Round, I always hear John Lennon singing:

11. 2e0mca - September 8, 2014

This post ties in well with the Weekly Photo Challenge – Adventure 🙂 Not knowing or choosing to randomise my route around the options as they open before me gives a feeling of empowerment, tells me that I control at least some of my life 🙂 Of course, I still need my employer to pay me at the end of the month… But we can’t have everything can we 😉

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Yes! Excellent point. With greater uncertainty, we are more open to Adventure. Which helps us avoid the nagging “been there, done that” echo.

The happiest workers might be those who see a job as a means to pay the bills without also expecting it to provide purpose and meaning and self-esteem and artistic license and status and . . .

Here in the US, many people equate “who they are” with “what they do.” As a result, people who would have been “happy cabdrivers” are “unhappy bankers.”

12. elizabeth2560 - September 8, 2014

I agree that this quote seems back to front in many ways. Too often, I have become frustrated and anxious (as he describes) when I have had a goal and fallen short of it.

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Thanks, Elizabeth. I’ve observed that and its corollary ~> as soon as one goal is met (e.g., write a book), another goal arises (e.g., market said book). It’s hard to be content if we are perpetually chasing a “brass ring.”

There’s a quote I love:

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: They try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier.

The way it actually works is the reverse: You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.

~ Margaret Young

elizabeth2560 - September 8, 2014

Love that!

elizabeth2560 - September 8, 2014

One other thing I just thought of… isn’t being ‘who you really are’ a goal of sorts?

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

Being “who you really are” is a goal of sorts. We could also have as a goal (or mission statement):

To embrace uncertainty.
To enjoy the journey.
To accept the what is.

What differentiates these goals from the type of goal he’s describing is that we can access them Here and Now. We don’t have to march to a distant horizon, control “externals,” or attain anything in order to manifest the desire to Be Here Now.

13. Piglet in Portugal - September 8, 2014

It’s helpful to have goals if you are driven by the need to succeed but I wouldn’t say by not having them it leads to thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry. For some people in the world their goal, if it can be considered a goal, is survival. Instinct

Do we need goals in order to survive?

nrhatch - September 8, 2014

I agree with the Dalai Lama ~> we are here to be happy. So, that’s my “goal.”

If I am happy where I am, pushing, stretching, pulling, tugging, and reaching for the next “brass ring” seems to be both a counter-productive and counter-intuitive practice.

Eat when hungry. Sleep when tired. Move when restless.

Stated another way: “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

14. Perfecting Motherhood - September 9, 2014

I disappeared for the whole summer and I’m slowly making my way back…

I think Earl Nightindale wrote The Strangest Secret as a sales motivational tool, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t sound right out of context. He thought people should be goal driven to reach happiness, rather than go passively through the motions of everyday life. But he also said this, which is one of my favorite quotes:

“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.” ~ Earl Nightingale

nrhatch - September 9, 2014

That’s a great quote, Milka. Not surprised it’s one of your favorites. It’s much closer to my life philosophy. Thanks for sharing.

Hope your summer away was GRAND in every way.

Perfecting Motherhood - September 9, 2014

We had a great summer! I blogged about our adventures in pictures. Quite a hodgepodge!

15. joannevalentinesimson - September 9, 2014

And you didn’t mention the awful grammar!

nrhatch - September 9, 2014

Exactly! No reason to nit pick under the circumstances. 😛

16. Three Well Beings - September 10, 2014

I think you’re so right! I don’t find an emphasis on goal-setting as a source for much peace. Circumstances usually shift the goal-line faster than I can reach those I set anyway! I like having a direction in mind, always knowing that it might be better to take a detour and take some time to see the “world’s largest ball of string” or something similarly enchanting. 🙂 Typically it seems that the goal-setters of the world are more admired than those that take a more creative path. Fortunately, I’m not that interested in being admired. LOL!

nrhatch - September 10, 2014

You sound like me ~ these days, anyway. Instead of “set goals” and “needs” I prefer to have “general aims” and “preferences.” That subtle change in viewpoint reminds me that my happiness is not contingent on always getting EXACTLY what I want.

And I think that not being DETERMINED to reach a SET GOAL or PRE-DESTINED DESTINATION makes me happier and more peaceful that many goal-oriented sorts who exhibit frustration and impatience when the grapes they seek remain out of reach.

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