She looks at me inquisitively and asks, “So what is you overall goal with this?” referring to my blogging, freelancing, social media channels at Ottsworld.
I look at her trying to keep my face from indicating just how uneasy this question makes me and time seems to slow down for a moment. I feel myself spiraling deep down into darkness, sounds seems muffled and warbled around me as if the whole world has turned into Charlie Brown’s teacher. The only noise that makes sense to me is this booming echo, “What is my goal, what is my goal – goal, goal, goal, g-o-a-l, goal?” reverberating off my brain.
I smile, look into her eyes, and let out a little coy laugh and slowly say, “I have no fucking idea.”
I’d like to say my response was delivered proudly and confidently, but it never feels that way. Internal doubt and worry is the normal outcome of that question. We are led to believe that in order to be successful in life you have to have goals. So if I don’t have any, what does this say about me? Her question left me wondering what had happened to me over that last 8 years…after all I used to be plugged into that whole Kool-Aid drinking goal community. Working in corporate jobs with my Type A personality was the perfect breeding ground for creating goals. What has happened to me, I used to be a goal person – didn’t I?
But upon thinking about that a little more I realize that I masqueraded as a goal person even back then. I lived in a goal person’s world and held down a goal person’s job. I did reviews and talked to my employees about goals annually. I did this because this is what we should do in life – we need goals – don’t we? If we didn’t have goals we might turn into a bunch of sheep wandering aimlessly. However, most every move I ever made in my career and life weren’t about achieving a life long goal – it was merely something that presented itself to me and it looked interesting and new so I went in that direction – with gusto and a don’t look back attitude.
More often than not, I don’t set goals and achieve them – instead I set anti goals…things that I don’t want to do or be like and then I steer myself away from those things and ultimate in a direction somewhere else. It’s weird – but I think this is how I have lived my whole life. My life choices are more about what I don’t want to happen rather than what I do want to happen. My father calls it living defensively. For some reason I have an easier time figuring out what I don’t want rather than what I want. Does anyone else have this problem?
Short Term Views
Over the last 8 years of nomadic living my whole life view has switched from long term to short term. I live my life in the very short term. I don’t even know where I’m going to be sleeping in a week or where I’ll even be. I rarely have long-term thoughts. When it comes to Ottsworld and blogging, I have an editorial calendar and sort of know what I’ll be writing about in January, and I have a list of things I want to get done. But that’s about as far as it goes. I have vague ideas that I’d like to do more public speaking next year, I want to redesign my site (coming soon!), I really want to finish my children’s book, do an ebook on local travel, and maybe even create on online video class on career breaks next year. I will work towards those things – but I’m not really sure what my end game is for them. I kind of just want to try it to see what happens. As for the rest of the year or a 5 year plan – I really have no idea.
2014 Successes and Disappointments
So far I’ve been surviving without blogging or personal goals. But the question is would I be more successful if I had goals for Ottsworld? I did have a lot of successes in 2014 – I taught for two weeks at Iolani School in Hawaii, Charlie and I raised $16,000 for charity: water, I said ‘no’ to sponsored posts and instead made up that income in doing more freelance writing, I spoke at TBEX, I taught at Bloghouse, I took another Niece on a Niece Project trip that included volunteering, I held a large Meet Plan Go event in NYC, I worked on my surfing, and I had a lot of fun along the way. However on the negative side I still don’t make enough income to have a home base, I never got my blog redesign completed, I didn’t finish my children’s book, I continue to have trouble balancing friendships and relationships in this nomadic lifestyle, I am generally disappointed in myself most days, and my romantic relationship has been a rollercoaster of emotions that generally has me feeling worse about myself than better.
I read how other freelancers and bloggers do these great year end reviews for themselves and go through a goal setting process each year, and it confuses me. The type A Sherry feels like she ‘should’ be doing that too as everyone knows that you never achieve things without well thought out goals and learning from your past – everyone who is successful has goals after all. Maybe not having goals is holding me back?
And then the thought of having goals and going through some process to determine and track them also makes me want to vomit. My life if constantly changing, I never know what or who I will encounter next that may open up new opportunities and doors obliterating my defined goals (if I had them). And most importantly (and stupidly) – I hate doing what everyone else is doing.
Instead of business or life goals, I have a growing list of life desires – I suppose some would call these ‘wishes’. There’s no formal process of setting them or measuring my progress towards them. I’m not driven to do them necessarily – but they are always in the back of my mind – sort of nagging me…
I want to write more openly and care less about being perfect, I want to use the word ‘fuck’ more in my writing, I would like to make sure that I do one philanthropic project a year, I would like to dance like they do on Dancing with the Stars, I would like to live life with wreckless abandon, I would like to be more caring and compassionate, I would like to be less petty, I would like to do more yoga, I want to participate in the Moth once and do live storytelling, I would like to have a man love me and make me feel like everything was going to be alright, I would like to love a man shamelessly, I would like to somehow convey to my dearest friends how much I love and depend on them for sanity, I would like to start running regularly again, I would like to have some way to make passive income, I would like to learn how to do night photography better, I would like to have a home base with a closet and a place to put my toothbrush permanently, I would like to be surrounded by people with passion, I would like to smile more and cry less.
…and the ‘wish’ list goes on…
And maybe I’ll never achieve these desires or my other business hopes if I don’t have well defined goals, a way to measure them, and hold myself accountable – I don’t really know. Maybe I’ll give Chris’s annual review and goal setting process a try this year – I suppose it can’t hurt.
But back to the original question, she asked me what my goal was with Ottsworld, and in true anti-goal form, all I really know is that I don’t want Ottsworld and this flexible lifestyle to end and I’d like to keep going, traveling, writing, and most of all inspiring others to travel more, travel deeper, and do things they love.
Goals by committee…do you have any suggestions on things you’d like to see here on Ottsworld? Let me know!
By Brian January 1, 2015 - 7:17 am
I read a paragraph like this . . .
“all I really know is that I don’t want Ottsworld and this flexible lifestyle to end and I’d like to keep going, traveling, writing, and most of all inspiring others to travel more, travel deeper, and do things they love.”
. . . and I think to myself, “that sounds like a list of goals.” Because that’s really all it is. Goals are just things that you want. They’re also things you want to avoid. That’s all.
How hard and how consistently you work toward your wishes, dreams, desires, hopes, aspirations, or whatever, is what will ultimately determine how successful you are in achieving them. What you call the process matters not at all.
So my advice would be this: excise the word “goal” from your vocabulary. It’s irrelevant and, for some reason, brings with it a lot of baggage for so many people.
Meanwhile, you’ve outlined in this article a pretty broad list of wants. Choose a couple of those that you feel most passionately about and commit to doing something every day to bring those wants to fruition.
And I promise, I won’t accuse you of setting goals, even though you already have. 😉
By Wynne January 1, 2015 - 1:36 pm
By Wynne January 1, 2015 - 1:40 pm
The first paragraph under Living Defensively resonates with me. I know what I DON’T want. And SOME of what I do.
The thought of working a full-time, “regular” job makes ME want to vomit.
When in corporate America, I always hated the year-end goal discussion. I had none – my goal was to GET OUT. Well, I managed that…next?!
I think I will bookmark this post and read it repeatedly, as I try to figure out what’s next for me. Thanks much for putting it all out there.
By Amber January 1, 2015 - 6:07 pm
Goal – its another loaded word, like passion, or love, or happiness. It can be defined differently for every person, and it is often hard to achieve. I like that you create wishes instead. I too have some projects I would like to do, a list of books I want to write, places to visit, habits to form. Eric has created a list of goals for us, so I will let him take care of it for both of us. In the mean time, you are soooo on the right track. If you are unsure about your future, it means you are living more in the present, and the happiness experts say that’s one way to bring more happiness to your life…so think of your lack of goals as a recipe for being more present and happy in your everyday life!
By Sherry January 5, 2015 - 1:45 am
Hmmm – I hadn’t really thought about it like that Amber. I never feel like I live in the present – yet I often get people telling me that. I suppose it’s more present than most people! Does Eric hire out his goal management?!
By Evelyn Hannon January 1, 2015 - 8:00 pm
I absolutely love this post Sherry. And … I hear you:)
By Sherry January 5, 2015 - 1:43 am
Thanks Evelyn! So nice of you to stop by the blog…hope to see you again in person soon!
By Lynn Nill January 1, 2015 - 9:13 pm
Sometimes I think I’ve lived most of my life without big long term goals, I never wanted a career, I just wanted to be happy. I wanted to give my children a happy childhood. That’s about it. I’m the queen of short term goals though. I always have a long todo list with projects to complete, and races to train for and run. But everything, every book I read, every garden I plant, every blog post I write, every race I run, is all fodder for my main goal, to be happy. Does this mean I live selfishly? You’d think that’s what it would mean, but no I don’t, because to think only of myself wouldn’t make me happy. Volunteering in various forms makes me happy, so I do that too.we’re here on this earth for a very short time. I don’t want to have regrets when I get to the end of it all. I want to know that I left things better in some small ways. If I leave this earth feeling happy about my life I will consider myself a successful human being.
By Sherry January 5, 2015 - 1:43 am
Here’s the great thing Lynn – many small things add up to one BIG thing – and I KNOW you’ve left things better in all kinds of ways! You are just lovely!
By Paula January 1, 2015 - 9:45 pm
Interesting to come across this today as I am working on a story for Saturday night’s Speak Easy. On the theme “Resolutions.” I’m still not quite sure what is going to come out of my mouth, but it will probably end up, at least in part, on my blog, where a lot of my creative energy is going these days. And interesting as well that you’d like to do The Moth. We have The Moth here in St. Paul and I’ve done the slam a few times and qualified for their first Grand Slam here. If you’re in the Twin Cities again any time soon – I still remember meeting you at the Cheap Theater storytelling at the Black Forest – would be happy to chat with you about the experience.
By Sherry January 5, 2015 - 1:34 am
Paula – great to hear from you and so great that you are now involved with the Moth in Mpls! I remember attending the storytelling and meeting you – and I remember talking about the Moth then. I had been going to the Moth in NYC way back in 2003! But never ever got the nerve yet to get up and tell my stories! Yet I write about them all the time. Maybe 2015 is the year that I will make the leap! Is Moth a regular monthly thing in Mpls now? I get back to the twin cities 2 or 3 times a year!
By Claudia January 2, 2015 - 10:17 am
Very, very inspirational post, perfectly timed with the beginning of 2015 and all the resolutions/goals we want to achieve/or not 🙂
Thanks for that and all the other great posts (I love your niece projects) and I thought it was about time to tell you that I enjoy your writing immensely.
By Sherry January 2, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Claudie – thanks for leaving a comment! I LOVE to hear from people out there who follow but I don’t know about. I can’t tell you how many times I get depressed feeling that no one really reads my stuff except Google robots – so I love to hear from people. I’m hoping (fingers crossed) that there will be another Niece Project this summer…but my next niece is quite indecisive and unsure about the whole thing…stay tuned….
By Tina January 2, 2015 - 12:04 pm
Fuck yeah! Thank you for this. You are such an inspiration!
By Sherry January 2, 2015 - 6:57 pm
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Ahhh – that felt good. Thanks for egging me on Tina!
By Kristin January 2, 2015 - 1:25 pm
Sherry, love this post. As someone who struggles with figuring out what my “goals” are (and by that, I mean what the heck I want to do!) I sometimes seek counsel from those I admire and respect– with the idea that maybe if they have it figured out, that will help me figure things out. What I’ve been learning is that maybe none of us really have it figured out, and that’s not only ok, but maybe even better because we’ll keep ourselves open to opportunities that we might not even be aware of today. I also love how happy you are doing what you’ve been doing– living in the moment instead of focusing on the future and reaching some “goal.” Haha if I have any goal for this year, it’s to live more like that– doing what I love without thinking about (as much) where it will end up. Thanks for an inspiring post.
By Sherry January 2, 2015 - 6:57 pm
Kristin – not sure if you realize is or not but you were the inspiration for this post! 🙂 Thanks for asking about my goals as it gave me a lot to think about! It’s funny I don’t ever really consider myself as someone who lives in the moment…but I suppose I do. I also don’t consider myself unique or interesting for being nomadic and traveling for the last 8 years – so my barometer may be a bit off!
By Alana - Paper Planes January 3, 2015 - 1:02 am
I’m in the same boat of knowing what I DON’T want to do, and where I DON’T want to go or what I DON”T want to be like…but the DO parts are a bit fuzzy… The thing with goals is that people set them like there’s going to be an end point at some time, but there rarely is…I don’t get it.
By Sherry January 5, 2015 - 1:31 am
Well that’s a good point – there’s never really an end point…once you achieve one you have to set another…kinda feels like a merry go round…
By Dave January 4, 2015 - 6:23 pm
“And then the thought of having goals and going through some process to determine and track them also makes me want to vomit.”
Me too! Like you, I have a general idea of the direction I go but the idea of tracking progress against certain goals (let’s say 50,000 likes on Facebook)… well I just don’t have the patience.
I also feel a bit self conscious, as though I could be speeding up the road to success if I had lots of goals and kept reminding myself of them.
But then I’m doing the work I want to do, and that was driven more by a vision than a business plan. I think you’re doing just fine too, and are probably being too hard on yourself.
By Sherry January 5, 2015 - 1:09 am
Thanks Dave! Everyone approaches it differently – but it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one without concrete blogging goals!
By Sarah January 5, 2015 - 9:29 pm
Hey Sherry, great post! I think it’s something we all encounter at various stages and it’s likely a good thing to reflect and reassess where we’re headed.
I recently met a wonderful person and life coach and was able to listen to her speaking with a group. In the short 20 or so minutes she had (it was one of those collaboration type events), the take away I possess is to realise what your ‘purpose’ is.
To me it already looks like you know what your purpose is. If your purpose is to be kind, loving, philanthropic and inspiring, then as long as all of your actions relate to this, you have nothing to worry about 🙂
I’ll let you know when I work out mine 😉
By Sherry January 6, 2015 - 1:22 am
Thanks for helping me put my purpose into words…I think it’s pretty accurate! Even though goals haven’t been a big part of my life – I will admit that purpose has…so maybe that’s a great way to think about it!
By De'Jav January 8, 2015 - 11:08 am
Great read and this relates to so many of us.Look forward to what 2015 has to offer.
By Stephanie - The Travel Chica January 11, 2015 - 10:34 am
I like the idea of anti-goals and seeking life desires.
By Lisa | LLworldtour January 13, 2015 - 5:20 pm
Fuck yeah. I’ve been saving this gooey post in my inbox because I knew it would resonate with me. I share a lot of your sentiments here. Who the hell knows?! I think the freelance life makes us question and ponder (read: worry about) things a lot more when we are still creating this pretty damn kick-ass life for ourselves that many don’t have the guts to go after. I’m trying to let myself off the hook a bit and not feel like I have to have some goal list or mission or manifesto. I keep learning and trying new things and trying to make life better each day. See you soon!
By Ben January 19, 2015 - 10:23 am
What a great post! Something I can really relate to. I sure as hell don’t miss the corporate goal reviews and setting but somehow still feel like I should be setting my own… I much prefer the idea of being clear about what you don’t want and being more open to what else presents itself as I move towards the things I want.
Thanks for sharing 🙂