Today I finished reading Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’s book: Everything that Remains. You may have heard of this duo, The Minimalists, as they now have a ragingly popular documentary on Netflix called Minimalism. I’ve been following their blog for some time now, and recently bought tickets for the Toronto leg of their current Less is Now tour. If you are at all interested in this subject and haven’t heard of these two, I highly suggest that you get in the know.
One of the most interesting ideas I came across in finishing up their book today, was that of living with zero goals. ‘No goals?!’ you ask.
Yea. No goals.
The first thought that comes to mind for most, is how in the hell you’re going to be productive, or accomplish and achieve anything. How will you get things done? How will you know where you’re at in life without setting and accomplishing goals? How will you gauge your success? How will you keep tabs on your progress in life? How else will you know if you’re ‘getting anywhere’, so-to-speak? Well, the answer might be simpler than you think. Freeing, really.
What if the only thing that matters is… this moment?
What if the only thing we need to be gauging is our level of happiness, right now, in this very instant?
This isn’t to say that setting goals is inherently bad or counterproductive, this can work for many people on many levels, but this idea of not setting goals is something I find worth exploring. Once I allowed myself to really consider what this could potentially mean for my stress level, my expectations in life, and my overall happiness; I decided this may be a worthwhile experiment for me personally.
You see, the problem with goal setting is that most of us set goals that our family, friends, and society, think are appropriate. This may sound like a safe bet, but ultimately we are all living separate lives, with varying personalities, diverse interests, and with different wants and needs. Painting all with the same brush rarely works. Black and white answers for grey questions never solve any problems. What may be beneficial for one, may not be beneficial for another. Safe bet sounds really uninspiring to me, and I prefer to feel inspired.
So how does one approach the idea of setting zero goals? I guess the first step is to reevaluate existing goals. Figure out what they are and why you set them. Why did you feel this would be of benefit to you? From here you can explore the idea of erasing this expectation. How do you feel when you imagine no longer having this particular expectation of yourself?
We all want to feel like we are working towards something, working on something, yes. Not having any goals set for yourself does not mean you won’t be working on or towards important things. It may actually open doors for you to do more, and to do better. Imagine that. Imagine letting go of all of the rigid expectations you have of yourself and your life, and allow yourself to feel what that sensation might be like. Imagine living a life where you are truly engaged in each moment, and not putting so much pressure on yourself to think, plan, and obsess over the future. Our ideas, wants, and passions may change tomorrow, next week, or next year – but most of us will be blinded by the goals we’ve set for ourselves. The five year plans, the ten year plans. We’ll feel guilty for straying from the tracks or falling off the wagon. But the tracks and the wagon are imaginary.
I used to feel that constantly moving up in my career was going to make me happy. That the evolution of my job title would somehow make me feel like I’d ‘made it’ or achieved something. It’s been almost one year since I left the job who’s title I so identified with. It was a very difficult decision to make after ten years of grind with the same company and mentality, and I had no real inkling of the lessons I’d learn in the year that was to follow. In my quest to leave a very stressful lifestyle behind me, I’ve sidestepped, stepped up, and stepped down, in a wide variety of professional situations. It’s been the most eye opening experience. What I’ve learned about myself through this experience, is that no job title, salary increase, or achievement of any of the other goals I’d set for myself – is going to make me happy. This is why JFM’s words resonate with me. They resonate because I’ve somehow found myself in this new life, with less things, less stress, less money, yet more time, more peace, and more joy.
Not having goals doesn’t mean you have no ambition, or that you won’t be doing, creating, or being. It doesn’t mean you won’t make plans in your life. That you won’t work towards that trip you so badly want to go on, or that you’ll never get anywhere in whatever passion project you may be working on. This isn’t a negative idea. It just means you won’t hold yourself to certain standards and expectations that may create resentment, disappointment, and guilt. What if your only goal is to be happy today? To see opportunity in whatever comes your way… today. What doors might that open for you? What paths may you follow if you had nothing restricting you? What if your goals are restricting you?
Some food for thought.
Bare Necessity Writer