I decided not to set any goals

I wrote about forgetting the past in my last article. Let’s talk about the future. There are three dimensions in our life: the past, the present and the future. I always live in the present, letting go of the the past and the future. By eliminating them, I spend more energy on my current life and enjoy what I’m doing.

Jason Fried mentioned that he’d never had a goal. That sparks my thinking. Have I ever had goals or plans? From time to time, I had new year’s resolutions like reading 12 books a year, writing more articles or learning Japanese, but it had never worked out. Why?

The only goal I hit is that I can work on things I enjoy without worrying about money, aka financial independence. But that’s a coincidence. I didn’t plan it out. My original plan was to run my own business so that I would be able to earn my living without a full time job. So, I quit my job (recklessly). What business? I have no clue. My plan was to utilize my accumulated capital to generate some investment income, and hopefully it could cover my living expenses. I kept my burn rate as low as possible until my business goal would be hit some day. It was never hit. But my investment income has set me free to do things I enjoy.

Why my new year’s resolutions failed, but my goal of financial independence was achieved?

Recently I came across a piece by Cal Newport in which he talked about the advice about writing. Many people think that you need to “write every day” or “hit your target word count”, but Cal’s experience with writing is about spending many hours on thinking through what he want to say before writing.

So, my goal of writing more articles was faulty. I should aim for doing my thinking more. Most importantly, I should enjoy the process of thinking, regardless of how many articles or words I’ve written.

I become financial independent not because I’m an investment expert, but because I enjoy living a minimalist life though it’s tough. And I enjoy thinking about business as I want to start one, which turns out to be an essential investing skill. They are all nothing to do with my goal.

When it comes to goals, we always refer to things to be achieved in the future. You hit goals one after another. The rat race never ends. Quantified goals are especially toxic. Reading 12 books a year. Writing an article every day. Getting 1000 followers and likes. Earning 1 millions. They all seems valid. But why doing these things? After you hit 10, your next goal is 100, and the next goal is 1000, and 1 million, and so on. It’s kind of like video games. You’re busy chasing the numbers all the time, but you end up doing nothing. I once targeted to write every day, but I felt empty. I started to write for the sake of writing so that I can hit my goal. This behavior is harmful.

So, I decided not to set any goals. What I care about is the current state and enjoying the process. Goals are the future which I don’t care. Process is the present which I care.

I don’t care about how many words I can write for an article and its view count as long as I enjoy the process of thinking when I write. Same for reading. The number of books I read doesn’t really matter. The efforts I put on thinking them through and linking the knowledge do matter.

I don’t care about how my business will go as long as I enjoy the process of building a product that customers love.

I don’t stare at the numbers I earn as long as I enjoy my minimalist life.

I don’t aim for getting many social connections as long as I enjoy hanging out with my best friends.

I don’t target a low body fat percentage as long as I enjoy working out in the gym.