Have you ever reached a big goal to only be let down once you get there? Or you ride on the wave of accomplishment only to stand there and think okay, now what? You feel lost, deflated and you realize you never imagined what you would do next as you have only been focused on the attainment of said goal? It’s like a person who has worked really hard to lose a lot of weight and when they do, they find their life is a bit different but hasn’t been transformed the way they believed it would be? Everything doesn’t fall into place because their weight was only a small part of the equation, though us overweight people want to believe that being fit or thinner is the magic equation. It just isn’t.
Recently, I slowly realized that I have achieved a major goal in my life. One I have had for years and years. At least since I was first married at twenty. I’m not going to elaborate on what this goal is because it will sound like bragging and it’s very personal. However, I have been workng toward it, with many ups and downs and moments that it seemed I would never reach the pinnacle. Now I’m here, standing on top of this goal mountain and I have no where to go, so to speak. I’m just here, arrived, journey over. I’m sitting on a boulder, with my chin on my fist like The Thinker, trying to figure out what next?
I was taking inventory of myself this weekend which we spent away in one of my favorite cities. I could easily live in this city, I love the surrounding countryside, the people, the arts and the culture. It’s not overly big but offers enough I would be more than happy. But I found, I just seemed to want to go home. Which is unusual for me. I always love getting away, love escaping the day to day hassles and the work pressure, etc. Except I no longer feel the need to escape my life anymore since reaching this particular goal. I realized also, that there are aspects of myself, that I really don’t know. It is like since obtaining this long-strived for goal has left me sitting there trying to figure out a bit of who I am. What do I want? What do I really like? I am not driven by the same things in my life anymore. It’s like the bus arrived at the station, dropped me off but I don’t know where I’m going from there.
Yesterday I was searching the internet with the phrase, I’ve reached my goal so now what?, hoping to find something that would help point me in the right direction. I didn’t find much other than more goal setting strategies but I did roll onto a blog about minimalists and Zen living. One blog post in particular caught my attention. One about setting no goals. My entire being shuddered at the thought. My life has always been about setting goals though many of them, I never quite achieve though I keep striving for. But I realized after this big let down and change in myself, I wasn’t sure that setting goals was always the best thing. There is a lot of failure associated with goals. If you don’t lose X amount of weight, then you beat yourself up or feel like a failure or both. If you don’t achive X on X date, another failure. Then there is the usually rigid steps to the goal. I will work out on X and X and X. Except Y happened on X so you couldn’t work out that day, so you felt like a failiure and didn’t work out for a week. In a way, not setting goals was starting to make sense.
How many quotes have we seen about the journey not the goal or end? You can open Facebook and see a bunch of them floating around in your newsfeed. I think of people who thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) which is over 2000 miles. They focus so much on the end goal, that when they reach it, there is a big let down once the excitement fades. They probably did not focus on the journey as much as how many miles per day. Just like my cycling goals, I spent most of my time last year watching the miles rack up on my cyclocomputer rather than enjoying the ride. I wonder what all I missed? Probably I don’t want to know.
So these people who advocate no goals suggest adding in habits or systems in your life as part of your journey. If you focus on healthy eating and working out most days of the week, you will become healthier. Rather than measuring by the scale, you measure by how you feel, how your clothes fit. It is a lifelong journey. You focus on following your passion, like say mine, writing. Rather than saying I will write 5,000 words this week, you just write. The one advocate of no goals says he actually ends up writing more than his usual weekly or daily goals because he is just enjoying what he is doing. And if a week he falls short, he doesn’t feel like a failure, it just happens. Every single person who promotes no goals says the same thing. They feel joy, they feel freedom. They enjoy life so much more. That’s what made me think.
That is how I conquered (mostly) emotional eating/bingeing. Focusing on what I wanted to eat, not forbidding any foods and only eating when I am hungry. I’ve lost some body size but I really need to focus on eating healthier. And I keep thinking about my cycling goal this year. Do I change the name to “guide” rather than goal? I will continue to track my mileage. But does it really matter? Shouldn’t I just be doing it because I love to ride? I may just plug in the numbers into the spreadsheet and not tally the mileage until the end of the season. Wouldn’t that be interesting? I will say having the goal of 50 miles a week last year, kept me on the bike but I don’t think I enjoyed the journey quite as much and the moment I reached my goal, I slid on my riding. Goal met, I was done. What if I had bought winter gear? What if I rode in the cold? Wonder how many miles I would have racked up? But then again, does it matter? No one is giving me a new car if I ride 2000 miles this season.
I’m going to start focusing on habits and systems but mostly I am going to start following my passions and just create and do without thinking so hard on the end goal. Actually I am going to stop having goals for awhile to see if I am happier. Not that I run amuk and do nothing. I will do the things I truly enjoy and see what happens. I will focus on good habits as well. I already know that counting calories and getting on the scale every day backfires or that when I focus only on riding for miles, I miss that patch of wild irises growing next to the bike path. And if I don’t have any goals, then I won’t have the failures and I won’t have the let down. I can focus on knowing myself rather than just pounding toward a goal.
Even with all the self-analysis I do, I find that I have to really look at what makes me happy. I used to think that moving south was the end all be all, but now I realize I am happy right where I am. There is no magic town where I am going to be happier. What makes me happy is being close to my family and friends. If I move seven hours away, what do I gain? A different location. A different job. But I’m starting all over. I would be isolated and miss everyone so much. I wouldn’t be happy really. I may love the mountains and love that area but I can always visit or buy a vacation home there if I really wanted. I often wondered how my grandparents (both sides) seemed content just where they were. My mom’s parents traveled some but they seemed content where they were for 40 odd years. I thought how boring. But now I understand.
If I don’t get to see the Eiffel tower will my life be for naught? No. It wouldn’t. Not as long as I spent time with the people I love. Losing my mom has shifted my priorities in life. The things I believed were so important are really not such a big deal. I still want to go to Paris but now it would be for a different reason. Just because I want to and not because I feel like if I don’t, I would be failing myself and not living my life fully. If I’m lying on my death bed and my family I love is around me, my friends, then who cares if I didn’t see Paris in the rain. It won’t matter. The importance of all those things has diminished. I seem to focus on love, the people I love rather than just living up to life expectations that came from, well who knows. There is so many books, shows, people, etc. teling us how our lives should be. We should be setting goals and achieving them! Otherwise we are nothing.
So not true. I’m going to give this no goals thing a try. Just enjoy the journey and see what happens. I’m excited about the potential outcome and joy I sense that will find me once I let go. I’ll post updates as I go along so come enjoy the journey with me.