I used to be mad about New Year. I used to love the rituals, the parties, the excitement, the magic sizzling in the air. The way everything sparkled with new promise. The way I could leave everything behind and start again. But lately, not so much.
Last year I wrote the piece When You Don’t Have That ‘New Year’ Feeling, not surprising, considering my father had died only a month before. But this year, even though I wasn’t quite so dragged down by grief, I didn’t feel any of that New Year ‘sparkle’ either.
And so I crawled through the first 10 days of the New Year, feeling out of place, jaded, jagged, bone weary, and about 100 years old … and then I found Leo Babauta’s the best goal is no goal. It’s a refreshingly beautiful piece about living without goals, about how liberating it is, and how it doesn’t actually mean that you stop achieving things. Just that you stop limiting yourself.
Leo writes, ‘Consider this common belief: “You’ll never get anywhere unless you know where you’re going.” This seems so common sensical, and yet it’s obviously not true if you stop to think about it. Conduct a simple experiment: go outside and walk in a random direction, and feel free to change directions randomly. After 20 minutes, an hour … you’ll be somewhere! It’s just that you didn’t know you were going to end up there.’
If you live without goals, he says, you’ll end up in surprising places. My heart fluttered at the thought.
Living without goals means you get to stop forcing yourself to do something when you don’t really feel like it, it means you give yourself the freedom to explore entirely unimagined things, it means you follow the calling of that moment, follow your feet, your heart, your passion.
‘In the end,’ he says, ‘I usually end up achieving more than if I had goals, because I’m always doing something I’m excited about. But whether I achieve or not isn’t the point at all: all that matters is that I’m doing what I love, always.
‘I end up in places that are wonderful, surprising, great. I just didn’t know I would get there when I started.’
Personal freedom is something I have fought for fiercely ever since I was a little girl. It’s something I’ve created and recreated in my life over and over again. It’s something I’ve protected like a lioness. And it’s something I crave even more and more the older I get.
But nobody has been a more tiring taskmaster in my life than my own self. My own goals, ambitions, and expectations have, over the years, become increasingly demanding and restrictive. A burden rather than a joy.
It is so fucking liberating to let all that go.
And so today, I let go.
I let go and I live.