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Perhaps for the enlightened ones, those on the path to enlightenment and those aiming for higher goals, worldly pursuits are not issues of concern. But they are important to many ordinary folks.

What is/are the proper Buddhist attitude(s) and actions to be adopted with regards to goals in life that a person had failed to achieve such as sporting excellence, top academic grades, a meaningful relationship, a satisfying career, achieving wealth and fame, marrying the one we loved rather than the one who was there or even just being normal like everyone else. What if the likelihood of achieving these goals is diminished or are no longer there e.g. already out of school, past the prime for sports, too old and so on.

Should a Buddhist adopt one of these thinking:

a) Nevermind, there’s always the next life.

b) We should try other things instead. Maybe we are just not cut out for fill-in-the-blank (e.g. sports, study, corporate, love, family and so on). Who knows? We might find ourselves happier doing other things.

c) No, we must keep trying. We should adopt the Bodhisattva attitude i.e. keep trying and learning from our mistakes in order to perfect the paramitas.

Thanks for sharing any insights.

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    All of it is dukkha anicca and anatta so striving to attain any of it then feeling shame and disappointment when it doesn't happen is a failure to "see things as they are". If you do succeed and you cling to the success and status etc it's the same thing. Its fine to have goals and achieve things in life but I guess the idea is to change ones perspective and see it through the lens of dukkha, anicca and anatta.
    – Sati
    Nov 20, 2023 at 21:40
  • @Sati well said indeed!
    – Desmon
    Nov 21, 2023 at 7:13

4 Answers 4

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I've competed in various activities in my life, and for a layperson like me I believe the Middle Way is informative for these situations.

If I were to, for example, enter a chess tournament I would strive to play my best, win/lose humbly, and conduct myself well. Regardless of the outcome I should be mindful and remain aware that my success or lack thereof is not permanent. Some day I won't even be able to participate. And pinning any amount of happiness on my ability to play chess well is a great invitation to suffering! (especially in my case)

Finding a balance between wanting to "do well" in a given activity/sphere of life and not becoming attached is a fine balance indeed.

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  • The hard part is also the middle way. If you are totally bad in the sport, it's like oh well, it's just for fun. If you are the champion, again it's all fine. But when you are runner up then you go....what if? Similarly, if you never had the opportunity (love, career, academic, etc) and watch it slipped away, I guess it would be much easier.
    – Desmon
    Nov 14, 2023 at 2:17
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Birth , Ageing and Death is suffering. Separation from the loved ones or beloved ideology is suffering. Combination with the hateful ones or hateful ideology is suffering. This is true for all realms of existence. Therefore the only success is the success in cessation of suffering , which is Nibbana.

Having said that and knowing the lay person’s difficulties in life , I would suggest you to be satisfied and be happy in any situation because there are people with much greater misfortunes. Some people do not have legs , some people do not have hands , some are mentally sick and are suffering from bi polar disorder, some are living in extreme poverty and some in extreme ignorance (they suffer like glass which breaks every now and then)… You are so lucky to know the Truth and you have chosen the right direction at least. You should rejoice everyday inspite of failures.

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  • The invitation is to meditate on the possibility that the "misfortunes" you mention may not be misfortunes, but are only part of a belief system of what constitutes a misfortune. Nov 14, 2023 at 7:03
  • @EndAnti-SemiticHate May be. Failure was considered bad (a misfortune) by the OP. According to you failure is not a failure but part of belief system what constitutes a misfortune. Nov 14, 2023 at 7:20
  • There is no real failure. Failure is only a personal perspective based on an arbitrary belief system. As Thomas Edison wisely quipped, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Nov 14, 2023 at 7:36
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Good question. I've acquired all three philosophies. However, I think if you are mindful in your living - but who does this? - the gravity of those philosophies weakens. Then you might ask yourself, what is it that I am really after? What are my real intentions?

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    Agreed but being mindful also means you recollect, review and understand what happened and went wrong. Our real intention is as usual just to be happy.
    – Desmon
    Nov 14, 2023 at 7:34
  • True but the four frames are not about cultivating happiness they are about deconstructing experience
    – blue_ego
    Nov 14, 2023 at 11:13
  • But aren't we using the four frames to deconstruct in order to better understand our experience and learn from it? Ultimately, the aim is our long lasting well-being and happiness by seeing through our delusions w.r.t. bodily sensations, feelings, consciousness and mental formations. Is this correct?
    – Desmon
    Nov 14, 2023 at 11:30
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    yes i think that is correct
    – blue_ego
    Nov 14, 2023 at 11:53
  • Great, thanks for the insights!
    – Desmon
    Nov 14, 2023 at 12:24
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“Monks, there are these five kinds of loss. Which five? Loss of relatives, loss of wealth, loss through disease, loss in terms of virtue, loss in terms of views. It’s not by reason of loss of relatives, loss of wealth, or loss through disease that beings—with the break-up of the body, after death—reappear in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell. It’s by reason of loss in terms of virtue and loss in terms of views that beings—with the break-up of the body, after death—reappear in a plane of deprivation, a bad destination, a lower realm, hell. These are the five kinds of loss.

“There are these five ways of being consummate. Which five? Being consummate in terms of relatives, being consummate in terms of wealth, being consummate in terms of freedom from disease, being consummate in terms of virtue, being consummate in terms of views. It’s not by reason of being consummate in terms of relatives, being consummate in terms of wealth, or being consummate in terms of freedom from disease that beings—with the break-up of the body, after death—reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world. It’s by reason of being consummate in virtue and being consummate in terms of views that beings—with the break-up of the body, after death—reappear in a good destination, a heavenly world. These are the five ways of being consummate.”

~ the Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya 5:130 Sampadā Sutta: Being Consummate, transl. Thanissaro https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/AN/AN5_130.html

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