Today I had lunch with a friend of mine who is retired. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so we spent a good part of our time catching up about our lives. At some point, in true, bonafide, coach-like fashion, I asked him what his goals for 2020 were, to which he promptly replied, “I have none.”

I did a double-take while thinking that he was joking, but I immediately realized that he wasn’t. I’ve never gotten that response from anyone before, and it never occurred to me that some people don’t feel the need to set goals…

…so I remained curious.

In fact, I found the concept ever so slightly refreshing. I asked him to share some more. After all, I was talking to someone who had accomplished many things in his life. He had worked in various different industries, gaining unique experiences in each. He had raised three kids, putting them all through college. He has traveled across the globe, done tons of volunteer work for various organizations, and still had the time to take salsa lessons, watch the grandkids on the weekends, and spend time with close friends and family. He successfully retired in 2018.

He shared with me that his goal was to NOT have goals. Sure he has projects that he’s working on (currently remodeling his house, mostly on his own), he has hobbies, like mastering the use of his brand new drone (he showed me a video of beautiful aerial views of Hawaii). But mostly, he said he was practicing being present, mindful, and practicing meditation. It allowed him to BE. HERE. NOW.

I came home thinking about non-goals. That is, the idea that having no goals allows you to experience life and work more fully with your focus on the journey while being in the present moment instead of being hyper-focused on the end result.

I like to create a both/and context when my brain wants to offer me an either/or. For example, I can think that either I am hyper-focused on achieving a goal, the destination, OR I am focused on the here and now, on the process. But I can also create a both/and context by thinking that I can both create goals AND stay present in the now, on/during the journey, on the way to my destination.

Another thing about being present in the journey, in the task, in the moment, is that it allows you the opportunity to appreciate things as they are and appreciate yourself as you are. In other words, you are not putting off experiencing joy or the feeling of success until after you have achieved your goal. Viewing it this way, your life can be limited by goal setting. Not by the goals themselves, but by thinking that you’ll only be happy or feel successful when X finally happens. That is one huge trap that we often get ourselves into.

I personally believe that our brain needs direction and that as human beings, growth and forward movement are inherent desires. Planning things ahead of time is a good thing. Delayed gratification is the best. Being present to both the joy and the challenges along the way to our goals is the best way to learn. And I believe that there are implied goals in the non-goals.

For my friend, choosing not to have any set goals in 2020 is actually a goal in itself. Perhaps it’s to remain open, flexible, or spontaneous. Perhaps it’s to not be tied down by your calendar or due dates. Perhaps it’s to be a little more present. A little more mindful. A little more invested in your moment to moment experience.  Both…and. 

🧡 Nancy

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