A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. —Lao Tzu
Can you really go without goals?
On January 1st, I published an article where I boldly proclaimed that I was wasn’t making New Year’s resolutions but, that I would follow my bliss and intuition instead.
Fifteen minutes after pushing “publish,” I was scratching my head wondering, “How the heck do I do this?”
How do I accomplish anything without having goals?
I decided I better speak with Leo Babauta, whom I had cited in the post as an example of someone successfully implementing this philosophy.
Thankfully, Leo spoke with me and I can now say, “I get it!” If you too find the concept of letting go of goals, yet still achieving confusing listen to this recording.
Here’s a summary of what we spoke about:
1. Can you explain the process of how to go without goals?
Follow your passion and bliss instead. Do what your excited about. When you work on what you love you don’t need a goal.
2. Why do you say goals are limiting?
Goals create a path that limit you from accepting new opportunities. You feel as if you have to stick to this one narrow path. But, life is unpredictable. Setting goals supposes life is predictable, when it’s not. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t need goals if you allow yourself to be flexible and explore new opportunities.
3. How can people like me who are habitual goal makers and list makers break this habit?
Examine whether you are doing things out of habit or is goal setting truly helping you. Try to let go of the end result and just do things for the enjoyment. I stop myself when I set a goal and consciously focus on the process instead. It’s more about enjoyment than the end result. So where you end up doesn’t matter. You don’t need to achieve anymore because the process is the achievement.
4. My fear is that I’ll be a lazy and get nothing done without goals. How do I deal with this fear?
Most fears are irrational. To overcome the fear – experiment and test it. See what would happen if you let go of goals for one day. If you still get a lot done without goals try it for two days or a week. You’ll prove to yourself that it’s an irrational fear.
5. Do you ever have a day where you don’t accomplish anything?
Accomplishments are secondary. If I’m writing – I love writing. If I’m playing with my kids, spending time with my wife or out in nature, I might not have “accomplished” anything but, I enjoyed myself so that’s still an accomplishment. Does your bliss have to be productive? When kids play, they aren’t thinking about being productive. We learned this in school and at work. Toss this all out and go back to being like a kid and just be happy. Play. Don’t focus on the achievement. Go back to a childlike state of wonder.
6. What’s next? What are you working on?
I’m working on a course with Courtney Carver about de-cluttering to teach others how to get rid of their clutter. I’m also considering developing a course on mindfulness and meditation with Susan O’Connell of the San Francisco Zen Center.
And much more of our discussion:
The distinction between goals and desires.
Goals can be useful to some individuals.
Importance of testing the theory of whether you truly need goals
How philosopher Lao Tzu influenced Leo’s thinking about “no goals.”
Why living without goals is freeing.
How releasing goals allows you to enjoy each step of your journey.
Thank you Leo, for speaking with me and alleviating my concerns about going without goals.
What I understand now is that goals aren’t the problem, it’s our “either or” approach to them. If we make achieving a specific outcome the goal we may be so rigid that we do not allow ourselves to deviate from this “narrow path.” Whereas, if we allow our bliss or passion to lead us, we may be led to something entirely different than we had in mind but, even better than we ourselves could have imagined. When we are fully present we experience the beauty of living in every moment. And, the discoveries we make while being led by our bliss are the true joys and gifts of our journey.
Do you have other questions about going without goals? Do you think this might have a positive impact upon your life? Are you willing to experiment and try it for a short while?
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Leo Babauta is an author, journalist and creator of Zen Habits. Zen Habits is one of the most visited blogs on the Internet. Leo has been named among Time Magazine’s top 25 Bloggers several times. Leo’s books include: The Effortless Life, Focus, The Little Guide to Un-Procrastination, Zen to Done, The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life, The Zen Habits Handbook for Life.*
*bio written by A. Artemis
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