I’m one of those people who operates in waves of enthusiasm. One month, I can. not. stop. blogging. The next, I’m taking pictures of everything. The next, I’m reading essays in every spare minute. It’s why every blog I’ve maintained has lain dormant for months at a time. It’s why our house rotates between cluttered and clean. It’s why one week we eat carefully planned meals, and the next we eat pizza and sandwiches. It’s not the most effective approach to goals and interests, and it’s an impulse I’m always trying to tame.
Lately, I’ve been experimenting with being goal-less. It’s a odd idea for me–someone who has written in this very space about how much I love goals, goal setting, goal achieving, and goal systems. But goal setting, by it’s very nature, emphasizes a certain dissatisfaction with the present; it puts you in a position where you’re always striving for the future. And that element of the goal-centered life has always been a little unsettling for me. After reading a post on Zen Habits that echoed that idea and enumerated the benefits of being goal-less, I decided to give it a try.
So for the month of June, I have no goals. Instead, I’m narrowing down what matters to me. I’m filtering out the fluff, filling up my time with meaningful pursuits–activities that pass the time and leave me with something more than spent minutes. This means I’m reading more, I’m retooling my to-dos, I’m refocusing here on The Lucy Show. I’m trying to be more involved in what truly gets me instead of just picking up anything that catches my eye.
I realize that, in a way, these are goals. But there’s no real marker. There is no “read 5 books to get back on track with 29 x 29;” or “write 6 blog posts in the next 2 weeks.” There is only “remember what matters; forget what doesn’t.”
I guess, more than anything, I’m trying to understand how I work. I always thought structure was my best friend. If I write out this specific list with these specific goals and all the specific steps to take towards said goals, then I will end up where I want to be, and I will be the person I want to be doing the things I want to be doing. And that still makes sense to me. But I’m starting to question if it’s what’s right for me.
Because I fall off the wagon a lot. Most months, I achieve about 50% of my goals. To me, that’s not bad. It’s easy to see it as “50% more than I might have achieved otherwise.” But that view also discounts everything else I might have accomplished that wasn’t on my list of goals. Sure, I know I did it. And I never really beat myself up over missed goals, especially when I know I my priorities shifted and I accomplished other as-yet-unnamed goals. But that’s what makes me think the most that this goal-free approach may, in fact, be better for me. Instead of allowing myself to accommodate new priorities as they arise by squishing them in among preset goals, why not just provide open space for them to emerge where they will?
What I’ve noticed the most this month is that, for the first time in a while, I feel like I have some stretching space. I had never consciously felt burdened by my goals–I only recognized them as a centering force, something to give me focus and keep me on track. And I’m not convinced that firmer hand isn’t more useful for me than this free-form, open-ended approach. But I’m comfortable for now. That’s enough.