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Life Without Goals

I’ve lived my entire life without goals.  And for most of it, I felt slightly guilty about having no goals. Whenever I read or heard of people working hard and in a focused manner towards their goals, I wanted to imitate them. I made a Mission Statement – but it had no focus about what I wanted to achieve or ‘do’. Instead, I found myself focusing on what I wanted to ‘be’.

In recent years, I’ve learned to accept my lack of goals and not feel guilty about them. So when I read these lines from Louise Hay, I’m thrilled:

No. I don’t have goals. I never have had goals. For me, that is not what works. I just go along with life, knowing my life is wonderful and only good lies before me. So, what difference do goals make?  – Louise Hay

I go ‘yes’!  While there were years that I didn’t quite realize that my life was wonderful or believe that only good lay before me, I found it so hard to plan my future. Now I’ve started to truly believe that only good is in store for me. Yes,  even on the days that good comes masquerading as discomfort, pain or hurt, I believe that everything works for the best.

All I have to do is focus on the moment and enjoy what I am doing in it.

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I have seen people who have goals about their education, their career,  the exact amount of money they want to have when they retire, etc. If that’s what works for them, then good luck to them. But when people attempt to apply goals to other areas of their lives –  their relationships, their children’s future, their spirituality – I start to get uncomfortable.

I recall reading this story a while back:

A woman told Zen Master Suzuki Roshi she found it difficult to mix Zen practice with the demands of being a householder, “I feel I am trying to climb a ladder, but for every step upward I slip backward two steps.”
“Forget the ladder,” the Roshi told her, “when you awaken everything is right here on the ground.

To me, goals are like ladders which I find hard to climb. So I stay on the ground, enjoying it, because everything is right here in this moment.

Are you a goal-setting type of person? Or does a life without goals appeal to you too?

Photo Credit: karrah.kobus via Compfight cc

 

72 Comments

  1. Proactive Indian Proactive Indian September 4, 2013

    One can have ‘action goals’ instead of ‘result goals’. For example, ‘try to exercise more regularly’ instead of ‘lose X kg within Y months’. So long as the effort is sincere, the question of ‘failure’ doesn’t arise.

  2. Claire 'Word by Word' Claire 'Word by Word' August 26, 2013

    Great post! I get kind of prickly when people tell me “you should set goals”, it’s the same thing thing when it’s suggested “you should buy a house” or “when are you going back?”. It’s not that I am aimless, I can already visualise where I might be when I am 60, but its more about how I will feel about my life, how fulfilled I will be, not about climbing a ladder or accumulating assets or other material gains.

    If I have to make a major decision like moving, then I will write down a list to try and sort out conflicting thoughts, such as the pro’s and con’s because even when I was unsure about the last move, once I did this I realised I would be able live my life even more so as I wished it to be if I did make the move, that’s a hard resolution to come to, when we are responding on an emotional level.

    Living in the present, practicing love and compassion and teaching my kids to focus on “Being Kind, Not Right”, those will do me!

  3. Disha Disha August 24, 2013

    I have set some goals in my life and one among those goals is to focus on the moment and enjoy it 🙂 I am not in haste to accomplish all those goals, just going easy and step by step!!
    Nice post Corinne loved your thought.

  4. Swapna Swapna August 23, 2013

    Like I told you recently Corinne I am a believer in law of attraction. For me making goals whether big or small are important. Some of my goals are pretty lofty and have to do a lot with having fun in life. But having goals makes them more tangible to me. I also believe that no experience in life goes to waste so even if I don’t achieve that goal, all the work towards it makes me feel successful. However, I like to have a balance with spontaneity built into my life.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 23, 2013

      I do believe in the law of attraction too, Swapna. But it seems to work differently for me in as far as the goal-setting business works. But yes, no experience how ‘bad’ or ‘useless’ it might seem at time is ever wasted.

  5. Jeevan Jacob John Jeevan Jacob John August 22, 2013

    I like to experiment with my life – and I do recommend others do the same. I have lived both ways – with and without goals (right now, I can’t live without my goals). I need them – not for focus or anything. Just because I need them. There are certain long term goals I would like to achieve (and those goals define my purpose in life).

    I do get your perspective, Corinne – fully enjoying the moment and forgetting everything else 😀 Live like a free bird!

    Anyways, thanks for sharing the experience!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 23, 2013

      Thanks for sharing, Jeevan. It’s important to experiment and see what works for you. I wish you good luck with your goals.

  6. Roshni Roshni August 22, 2013

    I do have goals for education, my career and retirement! I also have goals for my blog! But, yes, I completely avoid goals for relationships!! That is something that I cannot imagine approaching in any kind of cold, analytic form!

  7. Lazy Pineapple Lazy Pineapple August 21, 2013

    I am mid way somewhere..I am not too rigid about things and take one day at a time. When it comes to my professional life I do adhere to deadlines but I have the luxury to not get immersed in setting goals. My husband does it for both of us…

  8. Kajal Kajal August 20, 2013

    I like the quote and your philosophy as well. I have been a no goals person myself and I do try to emulate people who have. I guess I am still in the guilty phase of life…I know I need to get over and enjoy where I am right now…but for the moment…I am not completely content.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      I suppose all of us go through a ‘guilty phase of life’. What is important, though, is developing an ability to cope with outcome that are not anticipated. Anyway, if you decide to junk your goals and take life as it comes, you will not be alone. There are many of us, as you will realise from the comments to this post.

  9. Richa Singh Richa Singh August 20, 2013

    I am a woman always on mission. This is something which I feel is thoroughly wrong with me. I need goals to keep me going. Very recently I felt so exhausted by this insane urge to continue following my plan and all of a sudden I told my husband that once my latest project gets over I will take a break. I will not plan my life.

    I admire people who can remain without any sense of goal they are virtually free from all forms of negativity..

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Richa, having goals and plans to achieve the goal is not bad, per se. What is not so great is being obsessive about achieving the goals. Guess you have already realised that and are taking steps to change your approach to life. I am sure that your husband will be happy! 😉

  10. Sheela Sheela August 20, 2013

    To be organized in life setting of goals is compulsory, but what if life has to offer something better than our goals……….I believe goal setting sometimes work not always….

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      I agree. You can set goals, if that is your style. But you have to ready to accept whatever life offers you, which may be better than your own goals. But so often, we do not realise that life is offering something better.

  11. umashankar umashankar August 20, 2013

    Corinne, that is a solid rock you are standing on. Goals have never worked for me either. All I have is passion and desire and let them take me where they will.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Being fixated on goals alone will not work of anyone, unless you are capable of handling the outcomes, which may not be anticipated. How you handle the outcome is the differentiator between being happy and unhappy.

  12. Rahul Rahul August 20, 2013

    No harm in setting goals that can be worked upon realistically by remaining rooted to the ground. Building castles in the air have never really helped anyone:)

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      I agree that there is no harm in having goals. But more importantly, you have to learn to remain rooted and go with the flow. Life has a way of throwing up the unexpected.

  13. Amit Amit August 20, 2013

    Thank God! I thought I was the only person in the world who lived without long term goals. I do have short term goals like buying a camera, a new laptop etc but nothing that robs me if the moment.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      No, you are not alone. From the comments received, it appears that there a lot of us out there who are living quite happily without goals. Yes, you have to live in the moment.

  14. Ruchira Ruchira August 20, 2013

    Beautiful thoughts, Corrine!

    Honestly, I had/have made goals in life but the thought of failure used to deject me. However, I have recently learnt to get unattached to them and voila…it works. Failure does not smitten me from making goals as I tread upon the path called life each day!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      The key is not in having or not having goals; the important part is handling the outcomes, which may not be as anticipated. How you cope with the surprises that life has in store for us, is what makes the difference.

  15. Leo Leo August 19, 2013

    I’m a free bird usually, Corinne. I haven’t had any particular goal to speak of, just to be happy. These days, not that happy, so perhaps that needs to be remedied. Maybe being happy is the best goal of all. The catch is that my happiness is easily snatched sometimes by those around me. So another goal (?) to become a little more forceful when it comes to keeping my joys. Hmm, guess I’m not a big goal setter, but small things do tend to feel like big goals 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Being happy is living in the moments and going with the flow. Not having goals does not mean that others take you for granted. I’m glad you have decided to assert yourself.

  16. AJ AJ August 19, 2013

    This post drew the words outta my mouth. 🙂 Yes, I’m a no-goal kinda person too. I guess I have too much faith in the journey that I don’t sweat the destination much. I believe wherever it is I was meant to be, I’d get to. I used to feel guilty about it, but I’ve since accepted it about myself and now I feel comfortable in my goal-less skin.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      I’m glad you feel comfortable in your goalless skin. Savoring every moment of the journey is what is important. We can plan, but God has a way of rearranging our schedules, to paraphrase Mellisa’s comment.

  17. Shiva Shiva August 19, 2013

    That speaks for many people… I also believe in going with the flow and living in the moment.. although I do not undermine the feeling of accomplishment one has when something planned or expected materializes .. But somewhere I strongly believe whatever can be measured is definitely materialistic and tangible..and what is tangible is not forever… be it life, love, spirituality or happiness… Life is to be lived in moments and not milestones… I loved that thought of “What i want to do” vis a vis “What I want to be”… I would like to plan for my actions..but not put a target for myself for the outcome…

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      The last sentence sums it all; ‘plan….but not put a target….’ I am sure that without planning we would not be able to go through a single day without feeling frustrated, in the end. But not being fixated about the outcome is important. We have to cultivate a sense of detachment.

  18. Priya Priya August 19, 2013

    In my college days I was quite goal oriented.. Whatever I had planned I achieved.. Somehow I felt like chasing and chasing and only chasing goals.. Though goals keep you busy, they provide you clarity of thoughts and make you a better person sometimes I feel like doing random things.. Even I hate it when people keep personal relationship goals.. I really don’t know how much that helps.. Presently I don’t have a larger goal.. I just want my life to flow naturally.. Lets see what’s in store for me..!!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      I guess most of us go through a phase of goal setting. Maybe, something to do with the peer pressure, when we are younger. But as we get older, we become wiser. And whilst we strive, the outcome is not so important, any more.

  19. Martha Orlando Martha Orlando August 19, 2013

    For me, it’s a mix. I do set the bar and deadlines for certain things, like my blog and my books, but I do try to just be well and happy in the moment, accepting whatever it brings.
    Great thoughts, Corinne!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      It is always a mix. You can’t go through life not knowing what you plan to do in the next hour. But the important thing is coping with the surprises. If you can go with the flow, as one reader commented, you are home and dry. Else……..!

  20. Alka Gurha Alka Gurha August 19, 2013

    Beautiful quote. I have never been a goal oriented person either. I used to feel guilty about it. Not anymore. I am content with the choices I made. You echo my thoughts Corinne.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      I appear to have echoed the thoughts of a number of readers, going by the comments this post has received. Like I said earlier, the quote only reiterated what I had already discovered on my own.

  21. Rachna Rachna August 19, 2013

    I was extremely goal oriented in terms of achievement of specific milestones earlier. Now, I am more relaxed. My goals are not time bound and non specific like raising good kids or doing what my heart desires. But work-wise, I still do plan my work according to deadlines. Have to do it professionally; it keeps work more organized and disciplined!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Planning a schedule is certainly not goal setting and is in fact important. But you must be prepared for surprises along the way, which can throw a spanner in the works.

  22. Cairn Rodrigues Cairn Rodrigues August 19, 2013

    I love a good goal, can’t help myself 😉 My goals drive me, if there isn’t a bar high over my head to clear, I can’t function. My satisfaction comes from the trying though, not so much from the achieving. However, I know many successful and happy people who don’t set goals. So it goes to show that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. That never pays off!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Like I stated in an earlier comment, you strive, but don’t get too focused on the outcome. I guess you could call it being detached. And yes, comparison is a sure path to unhappiness.

  23. A Walk in the Woods A Walk in the Woods August 19, 2013

    Life without immediate goals – that’s me… I prefer to go with the flow. Things anyhow don’t happen as they are planned. My experience has been with a very erratic life and the twists and turns are what have made it so interesting. I could never have asked for another life… the mystery enchants me.
    Here’s to a life without goals!
    🙂
    That makes two of us, Corinne!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Going with the flow is an apt way of putting it. You strive, but don’t get too focused on the end result.

  24. sridevi sridevi August 19, 2013

    Ha Ha You so wrote about so many of us 😀

  25. Kalpana Solsi Kalpana Solsi August 19, 2013

    I do make short-term goals but lost track of them. But I now take each day as it comes and go with the flow. I am happy this way. But there are some who ask me what are your aims in 2013? I feel like telling them life itself is the biggest goal. to live happily taking the least stress. laugh loudly from the heart.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      There is a famous hymn, ‘One Day at a Time’. I wish we would not just enjoy the lyrics but also put them into practice in our daily life.

  26. Melissa Melissa August 19, 2013

    Hi BS 🙂 You know that I am doing the Purpose Driven Life sessions with a friend. I also have a Vision Board. I have plans ~ I have goals but I am open to the sweet surprises of life 🙂 God has a way of re-arranging my schedules 😛

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Yes, God has a way of re-arranging our schedules. And I have finally come to accept that I am better off without vision statements and time bound goals. 😉

  27. Jyothi Nair Jyothi Nair August 19, 2013

    This post just makes me feel so good. I am like this too. I never had any goals as such. All I wanted was to be happy and make others around me happy. Life doesn’t always hand you the best. Being happy is all about loving yourself and loving where you are now. I haven’t always done this. But I have grown with experiences. No long term goals at all. Just a short list of what to accomplish to complete the day successfully and on a happy note. But of course, I dream. Dreaming and having goals are not the same are they? 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      I like the phrase, ‘life doesn’t always hand you the best’. We have to play the hand as the card have been dealt. And no, dreaming and goals are not the same thing. At least not to my mind.

  28. C. Suresh C. Suresh August 19, 2013

    I had one and only one goal – to retire as early as financially possible so that I can live a life without goals 🙂 I quote myself from an interview that Rahul Miglani took of me “I find that setting goals creates the anxiety of achieving them which robs me of the joy of the moment” – or something similar. That has been my guiding philosophy 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Glad to know that you achieved the only goal that you set yourself. And in achieving it, you have released yourself from the bondage of goal setting.

  29. Anne Anne August 19, 2013

    Hi Corinne! I’ve always made goals since I finished high school. Then, I thought they were necessary to take me along the path I wanted for myself. But of course, things happen and they’re always according to what you wanted. Now that I’m older, I still make little goals but life goes on even if I don’t meet them. But i like what you said; that “everything is right here on the ground”.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      When we are younger, goal setting seems so important. Peer pressure, I guess. But like you mentioned, having goals is ok, as long as life goes on even when the goals are not achieved.

  30. Bindu Bindu August 19, 2013

    Whoa! Needed this today 🙂

  31. Pixie Pixie August 19, 2013

    I had goals when I was younger… lots of them! Starting from the marks I wanted to the deadlines at work!!
    Then, I got older and wiser and started taking things easy and each day as it comes!
    Now, I like this existence of mine – I have no serious goals except for the fact that I want to be happy.. so, I work towards staying happy and that’s worked for me 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Yes, as we get older, we certainly get wiser. Working towards staying happy is all that matters, I believe.

  32. Shail Shail August 19, 2013

    Corinne, we have a lot more in common than was evident to me at first, having no goals is one of them. I just go along life and am happy in the now. I loved the quote. 🙂

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Shail, like I mentioned to Usha, I am definitely in good company when it comes to not setting goals. Glad you liked the quote. Kind of re-enforces what I already had realised on my own.

  33. Vidya Sury Vidya Sury August 19, 2013

    Ah I hear you, Corinne! I am a list kind of person. Goals are fine, short-term vis-a-vis their role in preparation and having a direction to move in. But this was more relevant to me when I was in the corporate world. After I began working from home, my priorities and perceptions changed. And I enjoy NOT thinking about where I see myself, say, three years or five years from now. I am too busy enjoying the present moment. As long as I go to sleep with a prayer and a smile, I am just fine. Losing so many members of my family over the last three years has convinced me, more than ever before, that life is in the “now”.

    Love the Louise Hay quote and the story. The story especially speaks to me.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | September 1, 2013

      I know you’re a big list-maker and it works for you, Vidya. I’m so poor at that. But I hear what you are saying about making short term plans and moving towards them. And yes, as long as we go to bed grateful and smiling – all will be well.
      PS: Sorry I took so long to reply.

  34. usha menon usha menon August 19, 2013

    HI Corinne. This appears to be exactly my story! I have never made any goals in my life. I can say that God has been very kind to me. His grace and mercies made me march forward in my professional and personal life.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Usha, I am happy to be in such good company! If it worked for you, I’m sure that it will work for me, too.

  35. Sulekha ( Sulekha ( August 19, 2013

    Corinne, I make short time goals that too on the spur of the moment, Let me give you an example of my goal setting- When the cooking lady comes to ask me what I need cooked for lunch or dinner , I open the refrigerator and after going through the contents, decide on the dishes I want her to cook 🙂 Whereas my husband goes shopping a day before and gets all the things he needs for his favourite dish the next day.
    As for where my life is leading me and what is beyond the corner, is a surprise and I make no concrete plans to go a certain way or do things in a specific manner to get those results.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      Sulekha, I had a good laugh reading your comment. 😉 Personally, I have come to realise that trying to micro manage my life does not help. Like you said, accept the surprises that life offers. It’s more fun!

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      So do a lot of others, going by the comments received.

  36. Mary Stephenson Mary Stephenson August 18, 2013

    Hi Corinne

    I have at times wrote goals down and then when they were not achieved I felt like a failure. Some goals I suppose are okay, but then again I wish I had made better plans for the future. But perhaps this was the life I was supposed to live. I do believe there is something bigger and better waiting for me. I find when I have one specific thing I am focusing on, the whole is more achievable. Getting totally driven to one thing and constantly working to it, although still living. Example: I wanted a specific kind of car and every time I seen one like it I said that was my car. Within 6 months I had that car. I now want to move and although the finances do not reflect that capability, I am still working towards that. I am cleaning out closets, drawers, throwing stuff out or donating. I am also fixing things in the house in preparation for the move. Things are being boxed up if I don’t plan on using it now. I would rather refer to it more of focusing on something as opposed to calling it a goal, as I think goals are supposed to have an end date. Which in my opinion they are doomed to fail by most folks.

    Mary

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 21, 2013

      I know a number of people who use the technique of focusing on a single thing, like the car and eventually they achieve their objective. Some kind of self fulfilling prophecy. But, I guess, once you set a date to achieve your objective, you set yourself up for failure.

  37. Laurel (Dawn Storey) Laurel (Dawn Storey) August 18, 2013

    I think that for me, it’s finding a balance between the two. There is much to be said about living in the moment and being content with where you are and what you have… but for certain personalities (such as mine), not having specific goals can lead to unproductive drifting and a descent into laziness. I am like you, though, in that I am uncomfortable with goal-setting in the areas of spirituality or relationships, or goal-setting for someone else’s life. To me, that’s not what it’s all about.

    • Corinne Rodrigues Corinne Rodrigues Post author | August 20, 2013

      I understand, Dawn. I thought that about myself too – until I gave up setting goals and find that since then, I’ve actually achieved more. 😉

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