Ready, Set… No Goals!!!

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.  

Setting Some Goals – Getting Focused

With my 45th birthday today, I’ve been in a self-reflective mood all week.  Before, birthdays were fun occasions to celebrate and have cake or dinner out and get a few presents.  When you’re a kid or under forty, birthdays are different than they are once you cross the 40 threshold.  They start becoming reasons to start reflecting on your life, what you have accomplished, what you haven’t accomplished, what you might want to accomplish.  At least for me, but I noticed a trend in my friends thinking this way as well.  You have to face the fact that your life is likely to be half over or right at that point.  It starts to feel like you really need to get serious about what you want out of life, your goals and your dreams.

Most likely you have had to deal with the failing health of a grandparent or parent, maybe even losing them.  For me, I no longer have parents or grandparents.  Actually, this is my first birthday without my mom here to celebrate it with.  Seems odd that the person who gave birth to you will no longer be part of your birthday.  Takes away some of the joy of the day.  Personally, I’m not looking forward to my birthday just for that reason alone.  I’m not particularly one to freak out about getting older or that hides my age.  Most people guess me younger, some days I feel older, it all ebbs and flows as moods do.  Some days I look in the mirror and think hey, I don’t look bad.  Other days, I look into the mirror and think OMG a truck ran me over, I look like hell even though I probably don’t look any different than the day before when I felt good about myself.

But that aside, in my reflection I realized that I have a tendency to go through the motions and not really think about goals in my life.  Honestly, for the most part, I’m pretty content in my life so maybe I don’t set goals because there isn’t anything pressing.  I don’t hate my job and feel I need a new one (okay there are days when I do but not many).  I like my house and we’ve long decided that moving into a new house with a payment four times what ours is today isn’t our best financial move.  I am happy in my marriage, it took two strikes but I finally hit a home run.  My kids are doing well and don’t need me every second of the day.  And my role as caretaker has been unnecessary for about a year.  Outside of my cycling goal last year which I didn’t take seriously until early July, that has been the first time in years I’ve focused on accomplishing something that I had really put forth.  And for the first few months I just vaguely paid attention to the goal.  Actually, I’m not very good at focusing on things for myself as a rule.  Having kids, getting married and taking care of parents, you forget how to focus on something for yourself.

When you are younger, all you do is think about yourself.  What you like, don’t like, what pisses you off, what makes you happy.  Almost everything revolves around you.  Then you have a family, become an adult and it seems to go the complete opposite way, or it did for me.  If someone asked me what I liked, I couldn’t honestly say.  But I could tell you what my kids liked.  I think it’s a normal progression of life.  So now I’m back to the point where I can focus on myself and my life more fully.  So what do I want?

1.  Focus on my writing and take it more seriously.  I have a tendency to brush it off and put it aside.  I’m never going t get published on a larger scale if I don’t start focusing on my passion.  It may not be a job and I may not get famous and make a lot of money but it is important to me.  Every time I think about what do I want out of life, I want to be a writer.  I want to write the great American Love story but modern and realistic.  Not this fluffy crap that isn’t real.  Where the hero is a rich supermodel looking man and the heroine is helpless and needs him to save her (rolling eyes as I even type that).  I want to write something that could actually happen to any of us normal folks.

2. Eat better, lose weight – so I can ride faster and longer and do more things in life.  I have the exercise portion of it down though winter is tough.  But I eat too much sugar and too much crap.  Cut the crap.  Simple enough.  I want to be fit and strong.  I don’t care what I weigh really or what size I am, just as long as I’m healthy and in great shape.  The only reason I want to lose weight is because being lighter on my bike means I can up my average speeds and probably my distances.

3. Cycling goals.  I’ve covered this in another post.  1500 miles + for the season and ride a couple of events.  Metric century possibly.

4. Don’t be afraid to focus on myself.  Not that I become a selfish B but not be afraid to do what makes me happy either.

5. Love even more.  My friends, my family, my husband, perfect strangers, pets, life.  Pretty self-explanatory.

I always stop at ‘5’ as it seems that if I go past that number, I overwhelm myself.  I liked having the cycling goal last year.  I loved pushing myself toward something.  It had been so long since I had challenged myself to do anything.  I’ve already made a list of places and trails I want to hike and maybe that should part of my cycling goal, revise it to say fitness or something.  Goals are a bit exciting because they direct your focus, they give you something to work toward and accomplishing them feels great.  I like to break my goals down into smaller steps/goals.  Then I have little accomplishments along the way.  Because it really is about the journey not just the destination.