The Internal Destination: On Reaching Goals, Finding our Way, and Blooming
by Jennifer Paros
In two years, between the ages of six and eight, I changed schools four times – once because we moved, then because of an alcoholic teacher, then for a better program, then because that program ended. In third grade I entered my fourth new school in two years mentally adrift, and life became surprisingly nightmarish. I was so consistently frightened of school that I considered running away. I imagined climbing out onto the very small overhang of my second floor bedroom window, jumping down to our backyard, and running off into the night. The problem then (beyond possibly breaking bones) was I had no destination.
A destination is defined as a place to which one journeys or “the purpose for which something is predetermined.” It could also be thought of as an internal intentional goal, a mental/emotional place to go, to put our attention. Without one, running away (out in the world or in one’s mind) becomes a never-ending endeavor.
Lack of destination did not just prevent me having a solid escape; lack of internal destination made me want to run in the first place. All my attention was on the new school as a threat – its rules, teachers, the seeming unfriendliness. I feared school, but I was actually more lost in thought than trapped in an inherently unkind environment. I had no personal intention, no focus other than one centered on external conditions I feared might not be caring. I was passive, almost inert in my role, unaware of any influence I could have on my experience.
Goals and goal-setting used to strike me as a somewhat superficial regimen for achievement and success. But a goal is just a focusing device – with the intention of getting something we want. Goals aren’t only about reaching the finish line; pursuit of a goal naturally morphs into commitment to a process and applying ourselves to our own expansion. We move purposefully towards becoming more of who we are. The true fundamental goal at the root of any other goal is really, always simply to bloom.
Thought-setting is goal-setting, except instead of external achievement, we put our attention on internal achievement. We establish an inside destination – an emotional focus, a vision we can feel that serves as the bigger picture source for all our out-there-in-the-world goals. An internal destination provides grounding and holds a vision that recognizes the opportunity in everything, and stirs eagerness for its own expression out in the world.
What I love about writing and making pictures is that every time I go to work I must establish my internal destination. I have to tune to, listen, and feel for what I most want to express in general terms. Once that contact is made, without attention to the external world of opinion and influence, my relationship to myself is purer. It is the first thing I do, or else the page is likely to fill with things I either don’t like, or don’t care about, or both.
When I first started studying art, I had a teacher who emphasized that our connection to ourselves was key, even beyond skill set and notions of talent or lack thereof. She emphasized the importance of the integrity of that relationship as a natural source of and resource for all goals and would, if tended consciously, help us sustain our work. It was under her influence that I discovered the grounding and stability in setting my attention within, finding my destination, and allowing all else to grow from there. And in doing so, setting my own true course.
I had a lousy, frightening time in third grade. Much later I learned that though I can feel lost at any time, I do have the ability to reset my focus and navigate from within. And that re-setting generates the clarity to find my way out in the world. When we have our internal destination, the world becomes newly ordered to our eyes, newly orderable, and even more accommodating. But we need that vision. The beauty of a true destination is it’s bigger than any of its outwardly expressed details, founded and found in us. It stands independent of external conditions and because of this provides stability, direction, and a security that cannot be found anywhere else.