How Your Goals Rob You Of Your Life

Photo credit: Fineas Anton

On January 10 2016, I was sitting on my sofa with a beautiful new notebook and a pen in my hand, planning my goals for the year. I had big plans and big ideas – for my blog, for my business, for my life….

It felt great to plan what I wanted and set goals that seemed SMART.

Today, on January 14 2017, I’m sitting on the same sofa, looking at the same list and wondering if it’s worth doing again for the new year. It just feels like writing down my goals doesn’t mean anything.

It’s not that I didn’t get stuff done in 2016. In fact, I feel quite accomplished:

  • I invented TheFiveBand.
  • I did a trial run of my Etsy for Newbies course and helped 3 creativepreneurs.
  • I had a super fun vacation with my sister in Budapest.
  • I took a camping trip to one of the greatest canyons in Turkey.
  • I launched this website!
  • I started making my own nut milks and gave up cow milk.
  • I made and gave amazing gifts.
  • I started contributing to the education of underprivileged girls in Turkey and Ethiopia.
  • I improved my relationship with my mum.
  • I feel more in love with my husband than ever before.
  • I helped 4 small inspiring conscious businesses create a content marketing strategy.

But none of these amazing and fulfilling things were on my list.

So, you see, goals were achieved. Just not the ones I had set my mind on.

If it were me from 2013, that would have been very frustrating. But it’s the new me, me from 2017, and I don’t feel frustrated. In fact, I feel enlightened with a new discovery…

Goals are bullshit.

Goals rob you of the experience of life.

How come? you ask… Aren’t goals supposed to pull us forward, in the direction we desire?

In a 10K marathon, the goal is to finish the marathon. And without this goal, the marathon wouldn’t exist. But life is not a marathon because if we cross the finish line of life we’ll be, well, dead.

So the point is not to finish first.

And focusing on the finish line, on the end result, robs you of the journey. If we live goal to goal, milestone to milestone without experiencing the journey, how many meaningful moments would we have?

As many as the goals.

If we focus on the between the goals, the experience, regardless of the end result, how many meaningful, lived moments would we have?

Countless.

Our focus is wrong.

Imagine we only focus on the destination in life. That would be horrible.

Because everyone’s destination is death.

Yeah, I know that’s a bit grim but you gotta admit that the only direction we are moving to since our birth is….death.

Life is the journey from birth to death.

Everything that happens in between is worth living for. We don’t live to get to our death, right?

But usually we skip the journey and only focus on the goal, on the end, rather than the in between.

We wake and go to bed with the thought of what’s lacking, what it would feel to be there already.

But that’s living in the future, right?

It’s completely missing the moment. I’ve written about how this ruins your life already here.

I realized that focusing on the future moment is in fact robbing me of my own life.

We are in such a hurry to get there, that we miss everything on the way.

And in fact our life is not made up of milestones, it’s made up of the periods in between the milestones.

When we tell the story of our lives, we won’t say I was 100 pounds and looked amazing. We would tell the story of losing 50 pounds and changing our life forever.

It’s not the result that matters and makes us who we are, it’s the journey, the story behind it.

I am the owner of a handmade business is way less exciting and meaningful than the story behind it, the struggles and the joy…

Goals are great but if they serve the purpose of pulling us forward through the journey. Not if they make us feel frustrated and absent from our lives.

So if not goals, what?

Vision & Intention.

Goals might be very useful because they give us direction. Most of the times, however, we are so stuck on the gap between reality and destination that we look like The Flash running through the time force.

That’s why this year, I’m giving up goals for vision and intention.

Vision is the idea of how you want life to look and feel like but without the commitment to create it in a certain time frame. When you have a vision, you’re free to explore possibilities without beating yourself up that you’re not working towards a certain goal.

For example, if I have a vision of a mindful life, I can explore different ways to experience that. I give myself the freedom to explore without the beat up of not being there yet.

If my goal is to be mindful, I would struggle when I am not.

If my vision is to live a mindful life, I have all the freedom to move in that direction indefinitely.

Vision can change as circumstances change. Changing goals always makes us feel unaccomplished and guilty.

Vision is big and grand and might involve people and things other than us. Vision is an ideal world we move toward, no matter how far we go in this lifetime.

For example, my vision is for a utopian world of equal rights and shared resources, a world ruled by science, open source education and technology where humans feel free to create and love all life.

I know this vision will not be realized in my lifetime, but this doesn’t frustrate me.

Vision is bigger than us. Thus the ego is silent faced with it.

This might be also why we don’t feel frustrated when this vision is not realized. This doesn’t say anything bad about us.

Intention is about the expectations that we have about our attitude. It’s not about the expectations we have from life.

Intentions imply that we don’t know what the outcome would be and we don’t expect anything.

When we enter life or a situation with an intention, we enter it with curiosity. We don’t await for anything to come out of it.

We only know what is that we will be giving.

This is a great attitude to life!

Entering with an intention rather than expectation frees us from anxiety, frustration and disappointment. Intention also gives us flexibility.

My intention for this dinner party is to have fun and enjoy a new dish prepared by the host.

Imagine the expectations that could go with that:

  • Expecting a kind of meal I think is appropriate.
  • Expecting a certain behavior of the host and guests.
  • Expecting to be home by a certain hour.
  • Expecting to be treated in a certain way.

The fact is, at least one of these expectations won’t be met. And what follows? Frustration and disappointment.

However, if my intention is to enjoy without expectations, I will do it no matter how bad the food or rude the host.

I wouldn’t care.

I might still notice and record the fact that the glasses were dirty but that won’t ruin my evening.

Intention allows me to flow and face everything life sends me without getting stuck.

The intention to make the world a better place opens me up for possibilities and opportunities.

I don’t know how and when, but I know that when I encounter those possibilities, I’ll make my move.

Intention is about our attitude to life.

An intention to live healthy gives me inspiration to choose better.

A goal of not eating sugar only frustrates me when I’m faced with a delicious piece of tiramisu.

Vision & Intention give us a better framework for moving through life than goals.

Vision & intention are ways to change our attitude so that we experience life and live in the moment while planning and imagining how we want our lives to look like.

The goal is not to finish first.

Life is about enjoying every moment in between beginnings and endings. Because life is just that – a time lapse between birth and death.

This year, instead of a list of goals, I focus on what I want to experience. I focus on my intentions and vision for how I want to feel and what I want to create.

I’m ready to experience it all. And not ready for the finish line just yet.

And now it’s your turn:

How do goals make you feel? What’s your secret to not feeling guilty in February for not keeping up with your January resolutions? Or do you focus on a greater vision and just forget about the end result?

Share in the comments!

Comments

  1. Wow…I missed you!
    Thank you for sharing those thoughts that really provoked me. The goal of loosing 4 kg seems very frustrating and stressing and I really don’t think it’s worth stepping on the scale every single day just to realize I weigh more 🙂 This year my intention is to do what I feel is best for my body so I can feel comfortable with it!
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you for reading, Stefaniya! This is exactly what I mean… Letting go of the goal and easing into the intention with curiosity and love! Keep listening to your body <3

  2. Hi Tonka,

    This is such a refreshing take on goals (I mean not having goals). There are so many blog posts on goal setting it now looks stale advice. Your approach however reaches a deeper level. It reminds me of a book I’m currently reading – The Chimp Paradox, by Prof. Steve Peters. In the book, aimed at managing one’s inner critic, he talks about the Stone of Life i.e. your values and principles that you live your life by. In other words, your vision and intention.

    I’ve never listed goals much because I tend to allow life to unfold naturally. I am curious though about carving out my Stone of Life and understand in more depth just what makes me tick.

    Thanks for your encouragement.

    Best wishes,
    Alan

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Alan! This is exactly why I felt so compelled to write this post in January – I myself feel overwhelmed by content teaching us how to set goals but not if that is the right thing to do.

      I’ll definitely check out The Chimp Paradox, sounds like an interesting read!

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