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I lost the 10-day no-goals, no-tracking challenge

I’ve been an active essentialist (while dabbling with minimalism here and there) since 2009. And folks like Leo Babauta, Joshua Becker, and “the minimalists” — Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus — have been my heroes for the longest time I can remember. I think they were the original band of minimalists before the Internet/world thought it as cool and something worth trying. 

Now, Leo has been talking about having no-goals for a (god knows how) long time. As someone who lives for achievement, I’ve always found it intimidating. That said, I do remember giving it a try for a day (well, almost 16 hours) and boy, I felt so bad about myself! I gave up at around 8:30 at night and started furiously scribbling my to-do list for the next day. 

Damn, it felt so good! 

So much so that I didn’t give it another thought until recently when Joshua shared an update on how not having goals has liberated him. And since my life (and I’m sure yours too) has pretty much changed due to the coronavirus pandemic, I thought, perhaps now would be a good time to try the no-goals experiment. 

I decided to start with 10 days. And it was excruciatingly painful. I found myself missing deadlines, targets, important meetings, conversations, and even reading the queued up books! You should know that the last bit is impossible! Or so I thought. I was constantly irritated, frustrated, and angry at myself. 

All that made me wonder if it was worth it in the first place. I hadn’t felt this stressed and listless before. And I also realized that I’m a type-A when it comes to certain things in life — getting things done and getting my act together are a couple of them. Not having any goals or tracking for a week felt grossly unproductive and pointless. (*And by the way, I must’ve wasted an ungodly amount of time during my early 20s… but I eventually became who I am today.*

Unlike Joshua, I wasn’t happy nor was I content. Far from it! In fact, I questioned my sanity and the point of this whole exercise! And you know what happens when things get to that level, you stop doing whatever you’re doing. Precisely what happened! I stopped caring about having no goals and went right back to my old ways. 

It felt so much better! Most importantly, I got my “control” back. But despite the failed attempt, I still feel there’s value in carrying out this experiment. It’s an eye-opener for many, at many levels. For me, it was crystal clear — my happiness and contentment depends on what I’m accomplishing on a day-to-day basis because I know it leads to even greater accomplishments. 

That right there, isn’t a great thing. I shouldn’t be pinning all my happiness on accomplishments? And I now realize it’s a major area of growth I need to work on. Eventually, if not right now.  

In retrospect, I probably should have prepared myself for this experiment than just do it impromptu. Somethings require more planning and foresight than others. This was one of them and I should have known better. 

While it’s been truly a humbling experience, it will be some  time before I get back to trying the no goals challenge again. I don’t think I’m there yet — where I can safely look away from all that I need to accomplish and completely go with the flow, enjoying each and every moment of my life. I know, I should be doing this, but not right now. 

Like I mentioned before, I need to plan this out… probably during my next non-work trip or vacation I take, which I don’t see happening in the next 6 months for sure. Until then, I keep hustling to knock those tasks out of the park!