A couple months ago I came across this interesting blog post on goals that resonated really strongly with me. I’ll insert a paragraph, because I couldn’t have said it better,
Anyway, all I’m getting at here is this: You don’t have to constantly be working toward something you think will be bigger or better. You don’t have to sell your first house to buy a bigger one. (You don’t even have to buy a house in the first place.) You don’t have to visualize your life as you want it to be. It’s OK to be happy where you are right now, and to find contentment in the mundane. You can live in the same city for your entire life and still be a well-rounded, fulfilled person. Reading a book you found by chance on a park bench can be every bit as thrilling as going skydiving. It’s OK. Leave yourself open to opportunities you could never have thought of in the first place. You don’t have to be that person who’s constantly planning for the next amazing thing. That doesn’t make you boring or a loser or a failure. Everyone everywhere feels disappointed in themselves at times, and none of us are ever really living up to our true potential. That’s alright. We don’t have to be perfectly realized humans living carefully mapped-out lives. If your only goal in life is to be a decent person, that’s already a lot to think about and work toward. Human decency is an ongoing process that requires constant introspection as well as observation of those around us. That’s a pretty huge goal.
I felt (and still do) a sense of relief and comfort after reading this a few months ago. Maybe we don’t need a coherent plan in life, with clearly defined, long-term goals. Because not everyone is the same. Life lists work for some people, but they don’t work for others. We often get so caught up in the idea of something as opposed to its reality; what we think we want is often influenced and shaped by what others want. After all, we’re told that happiness is relative, right? But it’s too simplistic to just extrapolate from this and make a bold, sweeping statement that blames society; as if ‘society’ was the sole perpetuator of our problems and our disappointments. In blaming society, we forget that we are also part of society, and our choices, our values, our beliefs and expectations help to shape and reshape society. With these broad generalisations, we end up marginalising our own voice in society; diminishing our capacity for change.
Anyhow, I digress.
I don’t really have concrete long-term plans. If you ask me where I see myself in five years time, I will probably only be able to give a remotely coherent answer. Because I’m honestly not sure, and don’t know!
The problem is that ‘not knowing’ is rarely regarded in a positive light; let alone as an acceptable answer. It’s as if not being overly ambitious is both a cause and product of laziness, incompetence, and (God forbid) boringness. Because only people who are lazy would choose to not have any goals – they have no real desire or drive to work towards what they want. Because only people who are incapable would choose to not have any goals – the absence of goals becomes a natural defence mechanism through which ‘failed’ endeavours can be left unaccountable. And because only people who are boring would choose to not have any goals – they are too dull to imagine anything different.
It can be scary if you’re surrounded by people with people who visualise their future (on a near-daily basis). It’s intimidating.
But as Anna suggests, it’s okay to be comfortable where you are. It’s okay to find comfort in the mundane, happiness in the familiar. And it’s also okay to have long-term goals and grand aspirations!
The goals I set for myself are simple. It might be to smile more; say yes to more things; make time to catch up with old and new friends; go to the gym four/five times a week; be less judgemental and more open-minded; go to my uni lectures and tutorials or be more empathetic towards others. In our pursuit of larger (and ‘better’) goals, we often forget that small goals like these are also important – living a happy and fulfilling life doesn’t have to start tomorrow. Or when we achieve that milestone/goal/aspiration/lifelong dream. It can start now.