“Write down your goals.” The age old advice you’ll hear on every self-development blog. As if you just write them down, everything else will take care of itself.
Life is complete and you can rest in peace.
I don’t really have a lot of goals. In fact, I make it a point to not have them because they make me miserable. That doesn’t mean I don’t aim and aspire to do awesome things. I do. Life wouldn’t be worth living without that. It’s just that I don’t have a goal sheet. I don’t have a list of achievements I want to make in the next 3 months, 6 months, or 5 years.
Because goals have hurt me more than they’ve helped.
If you’re anything like me, you want to do a lot. You don’t dream tiny. You dream big. Really big.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that too often we get our goals caught up in who we are. If we don’t achieve them, we’re a failure. I’ve certainly felt like this. When I started this blog I made a goal to get 2,000 subscribers in one month. I didn’t reach that goal. It felt terrible. Not because I failed. On the contrary, I achieved a lot. I felt miserable because I put my sense of self worth in the accomplishment of a thing.
So instead of goals, I try to live based on principles. I try to live in alignment with what I value most. Instead of having unrealistic and fantastic goals, I have aspirations and dreams instead.
While goals seem nice and pretty on the outside, not so nice on the inside. You think they’ll help you. After all, isn’t the point of having goals to help you create a better life?
But exactly the opposite happens. They end up owning you.
You measure how much you’ve done to meet your goals. You usually shoot for the moon. You aim high when you set your goals and that’s a good thing right? The problem is you usually fall short. Then you punish yourself for not achieving everything you wanted to. Your mind thinks “if you don’t achieve this, if you don’t live up to this image of perfection, you’re not allowed to be happy.”
I’ve lived too long like that and I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t let seemingly positive things force me to walk around unhappy all the time because I’m falling short. It’s not worth it.
So as I said earlier, instead of goals I have ideals that I try to live by. I value certain things like family, freedom, fitness, and creativity. As long as I’m doing things that keep me in alignment with those things, I’m happy. I don’t have a goal to become more creative by reading 7 books next month. I don’t have a goal to run 6 miles a day. Because if I don’t, I’ll inevitably beat myself up. I failed. My ego gets wrapped up in it and I obsess over it.
Just like I’ve decided being lazy is better for me, I’ve decided to give up on goals.
I’ve also found a few other seemingly counterintuitive things work better for me:
- I’ve stopped caring a lot.
- I’ve learned that doing more doesn’t usually bring me more happiness. But doing less does.
- I’ve learned that doing “what works” doesn’t really work for me.
- I’ve learned that constantly trying to improve your life, can often make it worse.
I’ve learned that taking it easy and following your natural rhythms is much more important than productivity. What matters most is how much joy you’re currently experiencing in the present moment. If you’re putting off your happiness until you accomplish something, you’re failing at life.
We can’t wait to appreciate things another day. Our happiness cannot be determined by a to-do list or the achievement of goals.
I’ve stopped making goals because I often find myself living in the future. I’m so obsessed with completing the goal, it often makes the task a chore. I just want to finish it. I lose sight of why I’m doing it in the first place, to have a better life.
I’ve also stopped (as much as I can, it’s not easy) having expectations. That doesn’t mean I don’t put forth any effort to make things good, I do. I’m just not attached the outcome. If things don’t turn out the way I wanted them to, I’ll naturally get disappointed and start going on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s better to do what you can and let things happen as they will.
What do you think? Are goals getting in the way of your happiness? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
(PS: If goals are working for you, that’s awesome. They work better for some than others. For me, they get in the way.)