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The inland road and goal-free living

This is the year my goals broke and I think I like it.

You can blame this whole post on the fact we’re pondering what to do for our next summer holidays, which has me reflecting on our road trip to Brunswick Heads last year. Somewhere on the inland road north from Sydney, probably under a waterfall, my goals started to fall apart.DSC_6001Social media tags

We left the big smoke and headed up the New England Highway in a bit of a flap, because we had 14 friends-of-friends staying in our house while we were away = a ridiculous amount of bed making. Somehow in the midst of all that I lost my pretty goal folder. I usually take it with me on holidays to write my yearly goals and break them down into actionable parts.

Our first night’s accommodation was booked in a fabulously daggy roadside motel in Muswellbrook. I was kind of excited, because I have an inappropriate nostalgia for places with lumpy mattresses, faded wall art and kettles that only work if you give them a bash. I just didn’t realise it was a mining town, so the drive in was past big gashes of mining. The reality our nation rides on the back of those open wounds always leaves me wondering why we need more, more, more.

I started thinking about my goals and I pondered the goals I had dutifully written out in my pretty goal folder for the last ten years. From memory, they all had a similar tone.

By now, I would be earning 150g a year, be independently wealthy, be the author of several published books, be ten kilos lighter, be going on date nights once a week and be going on overseas holidays every year.

Hmm… more, more, more.

IMG_9298Social media tagsI haven’t achieved any of those goals and it dawned on me, as I noticed my heart rate rising just thinking about the goals, there’s a lot anxiety hidden in the spaces between those goals. The message behind all the ‘be this and be that’ is that our lives aren’t good enough now. We’re not good enough.

What if we just did what felt right in each moment? What if we just did what aligned with our intention or purpose? Would our lives spin out of control? Would we become passive? Would we no longer be the ‘drivers of our lives’?DSC_6018Social media tags

I reflected on why I’d achieved none of the goals I’d dutifully written down ten years ago. I didn’t think I’d be a blogger back then, because it hadn’t occurred to me. I didn’t realise I’d enjoy hanging out with my boys and lose some career ambition along the way (don’t tell my feisty teenage self, she would be horrified). I didn’t know I would lose interest in having more stuff.

This made me wonder if goals can actually be limiting, whereas choosing to lead a meaningful and purposeful life – ‘A beautiful life that doesn’t cost the earth’ has been far more useful for me. All those boxes to be ticked don’t seem as relevant now. I say yes and no to things based on if they align with my purpose, not because I have a box to tick. Yes, I still do some work that isn’t exactly inspiring, but it helps feed my family and that’s very meaningful to me, but I’m slowly becoming less dependent on that work. Mostly, I earn a living doing something that means a lot to me. 

My desire to stand under a waterfall turned into a craving at about this point in the thought process. Boundary Falls, off the World Heritage Way more than sated.How to live without goals | Blah Blah Magazine

Yup, it was cold, but it left me feeling ridiculously alive.

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I decided to compromise with myself and make my goal vaguer and more flexible and more of a summary of what I’ve been trying to achieve over the last couple of years – I would strive to build a beautiful life – goal done.

The problem only dawned on me halfway through the year. We can’t ‘build’ a beautiful life. We can only live it. Right now. It’s not about who we’re going to be. We’re it and that’s okay.

Dang, all those smug people with the ‘live in the moment’ posters for being right. It hurts to type this, but I had one of those annoying realisations – I’m as good as I’m going to get, striving wasn’t going to make me more myself or happier.

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This is when all my goals broke and I wondered what would happen if I didn’t write goals? What if I took that holiday feeling and just said yes to things that feel right, things that align with my intention?

So far, I’ve said yes to work that feeds my family, because that feels right. I’ve said yes to things I love doing, like sharing and wrestling ideas with people. I’ve said yes to simplifying and slowing down and going to bed earlier (hello boys who wake up 5.30 every day). I don’t drink as much as I used to, because that feels right for my brain (and see previous). I exercise most days, because that feels right. Sometimes I do none of the above, because that feels right.

It feels so weird to type it out and I’m not sure I can recommend it as a way of life, because it kind of hurts to give up on long term and bite-sized actionable goals. It lacks the sense of security of predicting my future, but clearly I wasn’t very good at predicting anyway. However, the big win is that I’m finding it a lot easier to live in the moment and pay attention to my surroundings and how I’m feeling. DSC_6008Social media tags

I still have ideas and projects I want to do with people and for those projects I write a to do list to brain dump and clear my head. Perhaps, it’s just semantics, but somehow it feels different to me.

Goals mean I’m striving to ‘be’ someone else, whereas if I don’t do everything on my to do list it doesn’t reflect on my sense of self worth as much. Maybe, I should call it a ‘what if ‘list? Would that be taking it too far? I guess we all have to find what works for us.

I don’t know if I’ll live this way forever, but it feels right at the moment and it’s the reason I giggled when I found my pretty goal folder in a recent decluttering and confirmed my suspicions. NONE of the things I had planned for had happened, but a lot of other interesting and fun things had. So, I threw my pretty folder out.

About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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11 comments

  1. It’s a definite shift in thinking about what ‘success’ and ‘happy’ looks like and your post has given me lots to think about. Some gorgeous photos in there too. Thanks Bele xx

  2. Believe it or not, I started 2015 with a goal to visit 10 waterfalls this year. Then I sprained my ankle. I’ve only been to one so far. I still think it’s a good goal though.

    • It’s a lovely goal, but I guess I’m just asking if it increases our enjoyment of waterfalls to tick them off a list, compared to enjoying the waterfalls we see when we see them? Perhaps, a goal motivates us to see more waterfalls, but do we appreciate them? Or do we just get there and think about the next waterfall to tick off? Without a goal we may not see as many waterfalls, but we might see something on the way to the waterfall that is equally interesting and decide to do that instead.
      I’m just curious where this takes me.

      • Maybe, I definitely feel that way when people travel by ticking things off a list. I hate the term “bucket list”.

        But I didn’t have a list of specific waterfalls, nor did I think they necessarily needed to be different waterfalls. I just wanted more waterfalls in my life.

  3. I love this! I was recently at a conference where it was all about goals and what you wanted to achieve. I felt a bit of a fraud, because I didn’t really know what I wanted to achieve in the future because I was too busy enjoying the now. I think you have totally nailed it, sometimes the best goal is to live life in the moment and see how things unfold. Because life is full of beautiful surprises!

    • Isn’t it a fascinating conundrum? How to make goals without attaching self worth to them? I think you’re right a goal to live in the moment sounds like a mighty fine plan x

  4. gosh I loved this read! Especially this line “We can’t ‘build’ a beautiful life. We can only live it. Right now. ”
    You’ve really got me thinking! Thank you xx

  5. I think I need to find a beautiful waterfall like that to sit under and contemplate (beautiful photos by the way Bele). I’ve been thinking a bit about this lately – I have my 20 year school reunion coming up and just know I’ll get the “so what have you been doing/do you do?” question. Like you, my teenage self would be horrified at my dwindling career ambition. But I’m happy, and without going all Oprah on you, I’m so very grateful for what I have. There’s many out there who would love the opportunities and privileges I am lucky to have.

  6. Well this is just so perfect I love that you threw that little book out and you had all those goals, even though you didn’t achieve them, they’ve helped you get where you are today. I had goals like that too and I’ve not achieved them all but they’re not as important to me now. Just being happy is and living a good life. it took me a long time to finally realise that and I’m still trying to achieve that balance today.
    Thanks for an inspiring post, happy weekend lovely x

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