A Goalless 2022?

I’m going to be experimenting with something that many people in self-help would despise, which is a life without goals. I’ve done this during several time periods of my life, mostly during childhood, not having any particular goal and just going with the flow. However, this time, it is intentional. For the beginning of 2022 at least, I’m not going to set any goals, and I’m not going to make any New Year’s resolutions.

On the one hand, why would I want to stop accomplishing things or progressing in life? But on the other hand, why would I prematurely converge on certain goals and not allow for more exploration? When did I decide to impose rules on the sandbox? Who said I had to build a sandcastle? Why am I still dissatisfied with the sandcastle after I’ve built it? I don’t see the point of accomplishing goals just for the sake of just doing them. It seems… empty, and superficial. I want to feel something.

That’s why instead of setting goals, I’m going to focus on clarifying my intentions. What do I intend for 2022? Some people may view intentions as being the same as goals. Maybe. But for now, I’d like to focus on the feeling state or the overall experience. Think of it like going to a party, not really knowing where it will lead but just intending to have a good time.

Some people have specific goals such as to move to New York City, or to graduate from Yale, or to have 2 children. But, I think life has so many possibilities that I cannot even fathom right now. I think if I want to be independent, for example, that could manifest is so many ways. It could mean starting a business, or moving to a studio in LA, or focusing on my health. No matter how intelligent or knowledgeable I may be, if I constantly pick goals based on what’s directly happening on the road in front of me, I may miss out on some spectacular opportunities. So now, I’m going to drive around a bit and see what’s there first, before fully committing to any goal or desire.

I’ll give you an example of where goallessness and open-endedness can lead. One time, I went to Las Vegas for a personal development workshop. I book a hostel and happened to be in a room with some other ladies, a few of them being ESL teachers in other countries too. I hadn’t planned on any other activities in Vegas aside from the workshop. But next thing I knew, I was put on a guestlist for free, and was later feet away from Calvin Harris DJing in a club. I had no idea that this would happen. I had not even intended to see Calvin Harris perform, nor even attend a club or interact with people outside of the workshop. Yet, that was one of the highlights of my whole year. I would have missed out on such an experience if I had not allowed for such flexibility during my stay.

Goals still have their place and can be valuable. I don’t think I’d be goalless for too long (though who knows until it happens). I imagine at least for the first month, I’d be more in exploratory mode. I’d continue keeping track of ideas and such. But, I’d like to deliberately focus on intentions, my values, and my priorities rather than deadlines or numbers. I want my life to be much more than a spreadsheet or a word document. I also think that if I do add goals back into the picture, I’d probably still leave plenty of time and space to do whatever and not feel so attached to any particular outcome.

Goals themselves are quite arbitrary when you think about them. Our reasoning and rationalization for achieving such goals stem from somewhere. If you want to lose 5 lbs this month, you could say it’s for health reasons. But then, why not just intend good health? Or, do you really just care about appearance? Is there some conflict going on there? You could say that aiming for the next job promotion is for financial and career reasons, but then why not just intend meaningful contribution/work or wealth? Yes, the goals can be actionable and give you a bit of a roadmap, but the problem is when you don’t achieve/get the things you want, and you forget about the intention behind it altogether.

With intentions, I love how open-ended and unattached they are to the overall outcomes. For myself, these are the intentions I’m brainstorming for 2022:

– Love
– Inspiration
– Feel-good action
– Good flow and balance of energy (good health)
– Exploration
– Trust
– Reliability (self, and with others)
– Wealth
– Harmony

There may be more later on, or less. Maybe I’ll modify some of these. I’m also thinking of putting these intentions on a new vision board.

I do have a few “goals” of sorts, some that already exist on my unofficial bucket list. I have some challenges and trials that I would like to attempt. There’s definitely long-term habits that I want to incorporate into my routine. I just don’t want to create unnecessary constraints. I would like to explore more with how to balance that aspect.

I’ve experimented with more S.M.A.R.T. goals over the past 6 months or so. At one point, I set a goal to release one song a month. That was nice, as I was consistently creating/releasing more. I still have a lot of songs I want to produce and such. But, the deadlines do feel arbitrary at times. Even with the most recent single I’ve been working on to release (will be out by the time I post this), the date feels very meaningful. But, the reasoning behind can technically seem quite superficial. The numbers themselves don’t possess any real power. It could have been two days from now, or two months from now, or two years from now. But I think if I focused more on the intention from the beginning, then it would have unfolded a bit differently. Originally, I had been planning to release a couple songs at least, like an EP. But eventually, I had to realize that I was pushing myself to be more ambitious, like grinding for the sake of progress but not enjoying the process itself.

I think once I let those expectations go and focused on my intentions, I was able to get what I wanted out of it. I focused on: celebration, sharing, expression, release, understanding, connection, reflection, experimentation… I thought I would hire a producer to help with the instrumental. I tried, and it didn’t go as planned. So, I ended up producing the entire instrumental myself. It was mostly experimental. I even accidentally deleted a few takes, which led to the project going into different directions (e.g. faster tempo, different chord progressions). I even left a minor imperfection there, and then I shrugged and went, “Well if anyone catches it, it’s proof the life isn’t perfect, and neither is my music.” It’s so liberating.

I do think there are some drawbacks to being completely goalless, especially if you’re someone like me who is tempted to experience so much in general. But, I am curious to just set intentions and take actions based on what aligns. Maybe, I could assess and recalibrate my intentions, my values, my beliefs, and my priorities.

Earlier this year, I set a goal to read 5 books by the end of the year. But when looking at old notes I took in South Korea, I noticed I had easily read 5 books that summer without even setting such a goal. It just happened, and quite spontaneously. I noticed they had an English section for books in the library, and I started checking books of interest out and dissecting what I was reading. It didn’t feel challenging and was quite effortless. I’d love for life to flow like the melody or tune of a song. It’d feel like I’m dancing with life.

Today is a special occasion for me. I thought I’d get so much achieved by now. Throughout my life, I’ve already trying listening to other people’s advice, following societal expectations, working “hard”, succeeding in academics, pursuing my own goals, setting targets for myself, focusing on the numbers, keeping logs… I think the attachment to the outcomes is what is holding me back, not with progress, but in overall satisfaction and fulfillment. I know you can never truly escape the numbers or the comparison or the progress. Even intentions involve a bit of comparison. I just think that goals can be a bit restrictive.

As I’m writing this, I feel that there can be some sort of balance. Complete goallessness feels alien, but pure goals seems robotic. I want to strike a good balance between exploration and action.

Also, although it would be nice to feel great all the time, I want to learn how to be okay with uncertainty and discomfort. That has been present in my life on several occasions. I don’t think I’ve truly mastered just sitting with those feelings and not wanting to immediately “fix” or change it. I think one of my drivers of my progress is feeling uncomfortable with not moving and feeling like I constantly need to be doing something. For some reason, it’s not acceptable to just be doing nothing. Even with nothingness, some people end up labeling it as “spirituality” or “zen” or “meditation” to place some higher meaning or importance to it. Or, they’ll negatively label it as “laziness”, “procrastination”, or the dreaded “wasting your life/time”. What if there was no assignment of meaning, just neutrality, and just experiencing it as it is without any preconceived judgment? That’s what I’m curious about.

It’s a little different because I will still set intentions as opposed to starting off with a blank slate. Or well, I have pre-selected a few colors I’d like to use. I think though, I can change these intentions at any moment. I don’t have to hold on so tightly. I also can let them go completely and just be in exploratory mode, or vibing mode (going with the flow of life). I like to think of intentions as setting the mood, or choosing the genre you want to tune in through the station.

This post was going a bit back and forth, mostly as I’m reflecting on the potential pros and cons. I won’t know for sure until I experience it. So at least for the month of January 2022, I’m going to not set any particular goals. It could be awesome, or it could be terrible. We’ll just have to see, right? 😉

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