Alternate Title: Leave goals at the finish line and embrace the direction
[It’s been some years, but I think this post was inspired by Atomic Habits.]
I’m the type of person who finds comfort in chaos. So much so, that for most of my life I doubted that I could ever “get it together.”
I’m not a rule-breaker. Nor am I wild in the party or hippie sense. Yet, I still don’t fit society’s superficial definition of “normal.” I’m chaotic in a “following the traditional life path is taxing and never works out” way.
But, I’ve wondered for a while now: why not find a balance? What about working towards organized chaos? [Isn’t that how the universe naturally functions anyway?]
And well, maybe even organized chaos isn’t meant for clean-cut goals and perfect diligence. I mean, at the end of the day, all forms of chaos are chaos.
So instead, I suggest that you focus on a direction, rather than pesky goals.
The problem with most goals
I know, I know. Some people love goals. And don’t get me get wrong, goals can be helpful and encouraging.
But, goals alone are not effective for me. And they might not be for you either. At least, not if you think of a goal as the finish line.
What do you mean?
If I asked you, “where do you see yourself 5 years from now,” what would you say?
Driving a fancier car?
Married to the “one?”
That sounds great, but what happens afterward? At least in my experience, the thing about goals is we tend to think of them as an “end all be all.”
We tell ourselves that if we just acquire that one thing then everything will be good. We’ll live happily ever after. Or at least, “level up.”
So, what’s wrong with that?
Simple. Life doesn’t work that way.
I mean, sure. There’s always an exception to the rule. So yes, some goals do substantially improve our lives when we achieve them. But, haven’t you noticed how fleeting it often is?
After you get what you want, you eventually get use to it. The happiness from your achievement fades away. And new issues and goals pop up too.
Basically, nothing lasts perfectly forever. And that includes our joy from our goals. Heck, we don’t even keep our level-ups forever. While wisdom and experience can stay with us, they’ll dull over time, especially without upkeep.
So, what makes a direction better than goals?
First off, directions aren’t automatically better.
Like I said earlier:
goals can be helpful and encouraging.
And they are effective for many people.
No, what really matters is how you use goals. And it just so happens, that I (and maybe you too) are more successful when you pair your goals with a direction.
The beauty of a direction
So, let’s go back to my earlier question: where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Mine would be something like this:
- Financially secure
- Feeling more “grounded” in my life
- Traveling regularly
- Having my own place
As you can see, that’s pretty vague, right? Nothing special.
But, that’s what makes many goals problematic. Current science suggests that goals are most effective when they are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Related.) That means that my goals (and probably yours too) aren’t effective by default.
Now, some people will thrive using the SMART goal approach.
Others, like myself, still struggle.
It’s simple, actually. Because SMART goal works against who I naturally am. I like to do things differently than I did yesterday. I don’t like schedules. And if I’m going to do something seriously, then I like to excel above realistic expectations.
[I’m chaotic, remember?]
So… trying to follow SMART goals just made me bored with life. And not want to do the goal in the first place.
Now at this point, I’m sure some of you reading this are going, “oh, you lack dedication. Just grow-up.”
And my answer is “no.” Because I’ve done the long hours and hustle life before. And it just made me tired and miserable. However, I’ve gotten way more personal fulfillment the past few months than ever before. And all I had to do was respect who I am as a person.
If you think about things for a second, there are multiple ways to achieve any goal. Especially vague ones like mine. So, why wouldn’t I take advantage of that?
Want to be financially secure?
Here’s some possibilities:
- Creating passive income
- Creating a budget and stick to it
- Getting a higher paid job
- Marrying into wealth [What? I’m not here to judge.]
Obviously, none of that is necessarily easy to do. But, unlike most goals, this approach of focusing on possibilities promotes adapting. By prioritizing your direction, you still pursue your desires. But, you put less pressure on the details. Which gives you more room to explore how to acquire your desires and adjust as needed.
A direction is looking at the big picture
I imagine someone reading this might go: “but, you’ll spread yourself too thin.”
And yes, that’s a possibility. But, so what?
I can get better at preventing that. And already that’s proven easier than forcing myself to chase the typical goal or SMART goal routes. And well, if the point of a goal is to achieve something, then isn’t better I side with the approach that works?
Rather than forcing yourself to go to the gym every other day, why not make a list of physical activities you’ll like to do and adjust to your week? Maybe you’ll follow a belly dancing workout on Monday. And Tuesday go for a nice walk in a local park. The rest of the week, you switch between activities or skip as the day suits you. As long as you still get in the habit of working out point-blank, it won’t matter if you’re doing it at the gym or not.
So, for people who are naturally chaotic/spontaneous, couldn’t this be an effective approach? You can still be diligent and accomplished. You’ll just be catering things to suit your natural self.
Of course, I’m not saying this will work for everyone. Or that it’s a bullet proof plan. But, I do think many of us try to fit the mold of society’s expectations, at the cost of our happiness.
You don’t have to be perfectly organized to love your life. And just because your spontaneous doesn’t mean you can’t be effective in life. After all, there is a wide range between “perfectly organized” and “absolute chaos.”
Just do yourself a favor and tailor your life to suit you, not society. Consider focusing on the direction you want in life and obsess less about the goals.
So, I’ll ask one last time: where do you see yourself 5 years from now?