I’ve been thinking about writing this piece for awhile now and finally found the cohesiveness to pull it together after reading a transcript of a 1958 Hunter S. Thompson letter; in which he responds to a friend who has asked for his advice on goal setting and finding purpose. The following is a line from the letter that captured what I had been thinking so simply:
“In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he knows he will enjoy.” (Thompson, 1958).
I don’t want to offend all of the people that regularly set goals and create vision boards, because if that works for you, then keep doing you. I only want to encourage you to not only think about the ‘big picture’, but the painter himself (or herself).
I rarely set tangible goals now unless I’m forced to as part of my annual employee objectives. And, I’ve never made New Year’s Resolutions.
After I graduated high school, I decided that I wanted to enter business school, and I set a career goal of becoming a millionaire by the time I was 30 years old. Fast forward to the second year of my post secondary education, when I realized that climbing the corporate ladder was going to take longer than I had first envisioned, and I redefined my goal to earning a six-figure salary by my 30th birthday. Several years after graduation, while balancing a white-collar career and trying to feed my growing thirst for travel, I found my interests shifting away from that monetary objective. I again revised my goal, for a third time, to visiting 30 different countries by the time that I turned 30.. That one might have been the best of the three, but I’m no longer proud of it either.
I’m 28 years old now, and I’m going to fail to meet my original goal unless I win the lottery (to which I don’t even buy tickets), but I am within an arm’s reach of the other two iterations. However, I don’t really care whether I reach them or not anymore, because I loathe the fact that I even set them in the first place, and how misguided I was because of them.
Over the winter holidays, I had a short conversation with my brother, and I can’t remember if he used the word ‘goals’, but he basically asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I didn’t have any goals anymore but that I now tried to follow a personal mantra. What my mantra is, is irrelevant, but what matters is that I made the decision to live my life based on a mindset, a way of life. I made that simple promise to myself, on a small island, in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea, almost 6 months ago, and I’ve never felt better about my future.
My perspective has little to do with the old adage of ‘do what you love, and everything will fall into place’. It just has to do with living. Don’t think, just live. Don’t map every step, just move forward. Just, live your fucking life. Live the way that you want to, the way that feels innately like you want it to be, and maybe everything will work out, or maybe, everything will fall apart miserably. But, in the end, it will be a life worth living.
I recently moved to Toronto and had to cancel an old account. When I called in, the help desk agent needed to verify my identity, so she asked me one of the ‘secret questions’ I had set up with my account.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I was surprised and had to think for a moment but quickly remembered the answer.
We both laughed.
That was the only goal that I have ever set that I’m disappointed in for failing.
The Wallflowers sang that ‘nothin’s free except a little bit of bad advice’, so take my words with a grain of salt.