By Michael Stodola Special to Published May 11, 2008 at 8:14 AM

Years ago, I edited a corporate sales video for a client's annual meeting here in Milwaukee. I employed the use of still photos, music and video. It was made to "excite the audience" and generally pump them up to sell more widgets. So, for a laugh, I spliced in moments from a Zig Ziglar video.

Now, if you don't know "The Zig," I must say, he is quite the motivational speaker. Born and raised in Alabama, he inspires his audience with a thick accent and select words he dramatically draws out. He is all about goal setting -- pronouncing the word "goal" with three syllables (GO-wall-la).

Now, while I meant these Zig segments to add novelty to my piece, I couldn't help but be seduced by his message and voice. I began to take notes. A few weeks later, I found myself making lists, dreaming up goals and aspirations and buying into the "Ziglar system." Work, religion, family, vacations and every other aspect of my life were charted on a nice little timeline and I was set. Life, here I come.

So, over the next 10 years I would create list after list, blueprinting each 12- and 60-month period. Sometimes I would hit the goals, but most of the time I fell short or changed my life in ways that left the goal obsolete. But as time went by, the missed goals began to add up to an ever-increasing stress level.

And then a couple of years ago, I discovered the Buddha.

Now, make no mistake, I'm lifetimes away from enlightenment and I only stand big toe-deep in the world of Buddhism. But, I do find meditation and the spiritual ideals of the Buddha satisfying. It brings inner peace, lowers my blood pressure and makes morons on the Marquette Interchange more tolerable.

The fundamental "one thing" of Buddhism is "living in the moment." At least that's what I try to focus on when I meditate. Simply concentrating on breathing in and breathing out unplugs my brain from past regrets and future worries.

However, getting deeper into these concepts has shone harsh light upon my goal setting, which is diametrically opposed to "living in the moment." So, instead of stressing about being a man divided, I'm dumping my goals like a bad habit.

Screw planning. It's a crutch invented to make life seem meaningful and forward-moving. And I have found that getting away from goal setting makes life seem more vital, exciting and "present." The phrase "the journey is the destination" manifests itself in many, wonderful, new ways.

I don't necessarily stop and smell roses, but I do stop and play with my kids. I do find ways to let stress evaporate off of me at work. And I do find moments of pure joy in unexpected places. And I may even be hitting more goals than ever before, but Mr. Ziglar and I will never know. Peace.

Michael Stodola Special to
Michael Stodola is the Creative Director at Boelter + Lincoln – a Milwaukee advertising agency. He loves his job, but not as much as he loves scuba diving, crab cakes or playing with his kids. His favorite thing is sneaking off for dates with his hottie wife. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s been calling Milwaukee home for well over 10 years. After Michael’s impending death, he’d like to return to this world as your next American Idol®.