Project 4 – Evaluation

With each step in the process of design and implementation of my personal Holistic Goal, there was a great deal of evaluation happening. Evidenced in the number of times I reworked and reworded my goal, the process went very deep and was fairly intense.

In this section, I will evaluate the process of forming a Holistic Goal and how it compares to the process I used in forming my goal for this Permaculture Diploma and other goal setting processes I’ve used. Additionally, I will cover the final stages of evolution of my Holistic Goal and how it has helped to shape my beliefs and behaviors since.

General Evaluation

Compared to other goal setting processes I’ve used, the creation of a Holistic Goal was very thorough and complex. It caused me to dig deep and consider what I really want from life. More than just what I want to accomplish, the Holistic Goal asks what quality of life I want to aspire to. I think that is a very important distinction to make.

In addition, Holistic Management doesn’t stop at defining the experience of life you want to create for yourself, it also helps cause you to define what you need to produce to create that experience and what the world might look like when that experience is being realized. In Dave Jacke’s and Eric Toensmeier’s Edible Forest Gardens two volume set, they suggest reframing a goal as a “Desired Condition”. A goal denotes a singular point or state whereas, a Desired Condition can be something expansive and ongoing. Working through this process of goal creation, the difference between a particular desired state (a goal) and a desired ongoing condition became evident and even experiential through the process of creating a Holistic Goal. These were not static states I was creating, but ongoing conditions that I could forever strive toward.

Everything from defining my whole to imagining my future resource base stretched my scope of perception, imagination and understanding. My past work with goal systems definitely contributed to my ability to navigate Allan’s Holistic methodology. It is surprising to me that there is not a greater emphasis on the desired conditions we are trying to create in permaculture design. Permaculture’s foundational design methodology, the basis from which these diploma design projects are formed, starts at the goal… but does not seem to provide a clear formula to help us determine our goal or to recognize how those goals direct and shape our processes and the results of our design.

In Donella Meadows’ Twelve Leverage Points to Intervine in a System Goals rank as the third most effective leverage point in complex systems. Only Paradigm Shifting and Transcendence out rank the leveraging impact of a system’s goals. This highlights the importance of a goal and goes on to demonstrate how profoundly a goal can effect all levels of behavior, both positively and negatively. Donella goes into detail about how a misplaced goal can have profound impacts on behavior that sometimes seems unrelated or unconnected to the goal. In reality, even a small change in wording can have a serious effect.

The One that Stuck

After many different iterations of designing a Holistic Goal that would stick and truly resonate with me, I had an opportunity to clear the slate and get to the very depths of what I wanted. While traveling India, I arranged a 10 day silent vipassana meditation retreat. During the retreat I was asked to give up reading, writing and all worldly possessions for the duration of the course.

After seven days of deep meditation, I found myself reaching a place where what I desired to create with my whole being was not only becoming increasingly clear… it was also incredibly simple.

After the course ended and I was again able to pick up my Learning Journal, the following flowed out as if it had been there all along:


With infinite gratitude I lead, & provide example & inspiration for others to lead, samma ajiva, the sila of right livelihood.

With the wisdom of anicca I cultivate dana-paramita.

I am nature’s harmony; the majority of my outputs are always creative & regenerative.


  •  Abundant time for peaceful meditation, heathy exercise & creative activity.
  •  Healthy & ethical sources of nourishment.
  • Surplus of creative/regenerative energy & resources.
  • A clean & healthy ecosystem that grows in complexity & diversity.
  • Gratitude for all things that arise in life.


People: I will be known for compassionate wisdom & contribution; I will be an engaging, thoughtful and creative educator; I will be known for ethical cooperative & trustworthy professionalism, and; I will be experienced as a radiant, healthy, humble & loving person in all encounters.

Environment: The environment, supported by a variety of positive feedback loops, will continually expand in natural capital, abundance of resources & diversity of living systems.

Community: The community will be well educated & ethical. It will support & generously contribute to continued ecological rehabilitation.

In Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making, Allan describes a state where a goal is so alined that the goal doesn’t even need to be posted on a wall or referenced in board meetings. The goal can be recited from memory, at will.

Upon writing the above goal – it was an immediate part of my memory… as if it was something that had been there all along. No effort was required to recall the goal after writing it. With each meditation, morning and evening, I would recite this goal and contemplate whether it was still the set of conditions I desired. A few minor refinements have taken shape since then but the overall statements have remained relatively static.


Obviously, this new goal set requires some explanation. There are several words used in this goal written in Pali Sanskrit. This would make it hard for the average reader to interpret the meaning behind each statement. It is not my intention to cause any confusion or obscure the point in any way. My intention was to use words that clearly resonated with me and could encompass what was important in a precise and succinct way. The use of Pali Sanskrit allowed me the ability to capture broad concepts under the umbrella of just a single word or two.

Definition of Terms:

Samma Ajiva – Right Livelihood.

One of the main precepts of the Eightfold Noble Path of the buddhist doctrine, Samma Ajiva has to do with how we conduct ourselves in terms of our profession. The term loosely translates to “Right Livelihood”. In general, it is about applying buddhist ethics to the ways in which we make a living. It means that I should avoid any “trades or occupations which, either directly or indirectly, result in harm for other living beings.” and includes five types of businesses that should be altogether avoided (both in terms of working for and patronizing):

  1. Business in weapons: trading in all kinds of weapons and instruments for killing.
  2. Business in human beings: slave trading, prostitution, or the buying and selling of children or adults.
  3. Business in meat: “meat” refers to the bodies of beings after they are killed. This includes breeding animals for slaughter.
  4. Business in intoxicants: manufacturing or selling intoxicating drinks or addictive drugs.
  5. Business in poison: producing or trading in any kind of poison or a toxic product designed to kill.

Personal Interpretation & Definition:
Although the first precept of Buddhism is to avoid killing any living thing – in an ecological sense, this is actually impractical, as death is a very important ecological function and a vital part of a healthy ecology. Instead, my personal application of this will be to avoid causing suffering.

This goal directs me to make my ethics a real and effective part of how I live and make a living.

Anicca – Impermanence.

The arising and subsequent passing away of phenomenon is captured in the Pali word “aniccia”.

Dana-paramita – Perfection in generosity.

Perfection in giving, in Buddhist doctrine means to give without attachment to either that which is given (recognizing it’s impermanent nature – “aniccia”) or the outcomes from the act of giving. This precept also implies that I will give only for the benefit of others or, that I will avoid giving in a way that enables suffering (such as supporting drug habits or giving to organizations that contribute to genocide, etc…)

This goal directs me to use my energy with intention and compassion for the benefit of all beings.

Regeneration to the Ratio of Phi

Each of the three Quality of Life statements overlap and feed into each other, linking into a cohesive statement that, for me, encompasses my philosophy of regeneration and the ratio of phi.

The three statements together capture the four aspects of myself, spiritual, physical, emotional and physical, that I defined in the Design section.

The first statement defines the quality of life I seek in a professional sense, as well as how that influences the quality of life of the rest of my being by inspiring others to live a ethical lifestyle.

The second statement also contributes to my professional quality of life. By practicing non-attachment and generosity, I form a more healthy relationship with my financial well-being. I release all stress and tension around having enough money. This, as you might have noticed from reading previous sections of this project, has been a critical struggle to come to terms with. This statement fulfills my root desire for a quality of life full of generosity. By giving without attachment, the opportunities to receive (although not expected) tend to expand.

The third statement is perhaps the most profound and connects the other two. The concept is born of the idea that, on a whole, the majority of human activity today is destructive. Even if we were to stop all the destructive behaviors right now, it is speculated that our world would still spiral further into instability and disharmony. This requires action on our part. It means that we must work to be create more than we destroy… especially in terms of ecology. If, however, we were to be 100% creative, without an element of destruction or disturbance, the result would be a consuming cancer.

This concept resulted in the realization that I must focus my activity on the creative end of the spectrum. I likely don’t have to worry about being overly creative and regenerative (into the realms of cancer) due to the overwhelmingly destructive behaviors of the rest of humanity. Staying conscious of the applications of my energy and evaluating the results with intention is a desired condition that produces the quality of life I wish to create for myself and all of life.

Because these statements broaden the focus of my goals out beyond myself, I find them to be far more holistic than previous iterations. The three statements combine to create a vision of the world of which I would like to be a part. The world I want to be a part creates the conditions of the quality of life I seek for myself.


After taking on this extensive and intensive process I feel strongly grounded in the results. I know that the goals will never be truly static and will continue to evolve over time as my knowledge and world views continually expand. Despite the fluidity of such things, I find these results have already had a profound impact on how I live and conduct myself. The general direction of my life has come into perspective and solidified. In addition, my ability to define and express my course in life has become much more centered and true to my beliefs.

It is clear to me that this process has had a directly positive impact on my life already and is looking like it will shape much of the work I do going forward. Already, my next diploma project has started taking shape around the concept regeneration to the ratio of phi. The next project, in fact, is a direct manifestation of the foundation created through this deep work.


<- back to implementation                        evaluation                         forward to appendix ->

Leave a Reply