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Kill Your Expectations and Stop Caring For a Better Life

“Write down your goals.” The age old advice you’ll hear on every self-development blog. As if you just write them down, everything else will take care of itself.


Life is complete and you can rest in peace.

Not quite.

I don’t really have a lot of goals. In fact, I make it a point to not have them because they make me miserable. That doesn’t mean I don’t aim and aspire to do awesome things. I do. Life wouldn’t be worth living without that. It’s just that I don’t have a goal sheet. I don’t have a list of achievements I want to make in the next 3 months, 6 months, or 5 years.


Because goals have hurt me more than they’ve helped.

If you’re anything like me, you want to do a lot. You don’t dream tiny. You dream big. Really big.


And there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is that too often we get our goals caught up in who we are. If we don’t achieve them, we’re a failure. I’ve certainly felt like this so many times in my life. So instead of goals, I try to live based on principles. I try to live in alignment with what I value most. Instead of having unrealistic and fantastic goals, I have aspirations and dreams instead.

While goals seem nice and pretty on the outside, not so nice on the inside. You think they’ll help you. After all, isn’t the point of having goals to help you create a better life?

But exactly the opposite happens. They end up owning you.

You measure how much you’ve done to meet your goals. You usually shoot for the moon. You aim high when you set your goals and that’s a good thing right? The problem is you usually fall short. Then you punish yourself for not achieving everything you wanted to. Your mind thinks “if you don’t achieve this, if you don’t live up to this image of perfection, you’re not allowed to be happy.”

That’s ridiculous.

I’ve lived too long like that and I just can’t do it anymore. I can’t let seemingly positive things force me to walk around unhappy all the time because I’m falling short. It’s not worth it.

So as I said earlier, instead of goals I have ideals that I try to live by. I value certain things like family, freedom, fitness, and creativity. As long as I’m doing things that keep me in alignment with those things, I’m happy. I don’t have a goal to become more creative by reading 7 books next month. I don’t have a goal to run 6 miles a day. Because if I don’t, I’ll inevitably beat myself up. I failed. My ego gets wrapped up in it and I obsess over it.

Just like I’ve decided being lazy is better for me, I’ve decided to give up on goals.

I’ve also found a few other seemingly counterintuitive things work better for me:

§  I’ve stopped caring a lot.

§  I’ve learned that doing more doesn’t usually bring me more happiness. But doing less does.

§  I’ve learned that doing “what works” doesn’t really work for me.

§  I’ve learned that constantly trying to improve your life, can often make it worse.

I’ve learned that taking it easy and following your natural rhythms is much more important than productivity. What matters most is how much joy you’re currently experiencing in the present moment. If you’re putting off your happiness until you accomplish something, you’re failing at life.

We can’t wait to appreciate things another day. Our happiness cannot be determined by a to-do list or the achievement of goals.

I’ve stopped making goals because I often find myself living in the future. I’m so obsessed with completing the goal, it often makes the task a chore. I just want to finish it. I lose sight of why I’m doing it in the first place, to have a better life.

I’ve also stopped (as much as I can, it’s not easy) having expectations. As Michael Landon said once “I don’t have expectations. Expectations in your life just lead to giant disappointments.” That doesn’t mean I don’t put forth any effort to make things good, I do. I’m just not attached the outcome. If things don’t turn out the way I wanted them to, I’ll naturally get disappointed and start going on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s better to do what you can and let things happen as they will.

Filed under: Thoughts

6 Responses

  1. KJ says:

    Interesting, Mai – we more or less share the same thinking.

    Some people can do very well with goals, and meet them. You’re like me, probably, in that we are not able to set a “realistic” goal, simply because your sense of the achievables is quite high.

    Which is why, many times, I thought of myself as a failure.

    Which is why I also have come to a similar but less robust conclusion (granted, I am younger :P)

    I stopped taking things to heart, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have passion anymore. I truly don’t know what more goals to set, what I do is that I wish for something, and keep it in the back of my head. My subconscious will by itself make me do things to achieve that “goal”.

  2. KJ says:

    as a side note, the theme is “too professional” – it is missing the maioush element!

  3. We shouldn’t give up on our goals. In fact, these obstacles define us and enrich our experience. They’re there to prevent us but we must fight back. Even if we lost, we will not just take it lying down.
    Life will always through tough challenges, but it’s what we decide to do about them that counts. Challenges are not going to go anywhere.
    There’s nothing wrong in setting expectations, especially if they’re realistic and not extremely far fetched. It will take hard work, dedication but most importantly relentlessness to achieve goals against all odds

    There’s always hope, and that’s ultimately what makes all of us continue to go on

  4. MommaBean says:

    Ah, Maioush, a very interesting post. But, I think there’s maybe another way to look at this. Instead of looking at goals as “must achieve’s”, look at them as potential destination points. It’ not about reaching them, it’sabout the journey to get there. What I find most often happens is that as I move toward achieving a goal, as I reflect on it, I find I’ve built new skills and competencies, but find I’d rather be on a different path. The pure static goal can be an issue. But, I also think you’re looser approach will work better for you. Best of luck and may your journey in 2009 be very interesting!

  5. Simply Me says:

    I stopped making goals too.. and that was ummmm .. let me think.. 3 years ago! and guess what? not having goals did not make me less active.. nor less productive! it just made me less disappointed.. less miserable.. more realistic with the real appreciation for the present. So I totally understand what you’re saying and why you’re saying it.. 🙂 And I found it so weird the way some people set up goals for the coming 3 or 5 years. In fact I call that CRAZY.

  6. afaf says:

    i can tell where that is coming from…but from my humble experience, i can tell u what really worked with me and what didnot…
    the expectations part is ok in a way, though hubby doesnot agree with me about it, but it works for me…still even if u donot expect, still deep down inside of u, u will be expecting unknowingly…and end up with disappointment!!! so it really doesnot work 100%…
    i gave up once, and it didnot work with me either…when tragedies hit from all sides, adn life was treating me the worst…still i picked up the pieces and kept one thing on mind “what doesnot kill me makes me stronger” and life is still worth living and my goals r worth going for…and the joy was more than b4…for no special reason, but the fact that when we think that we reached down to the bottom and canot get any lower…guess what, we can still see the light at the end of the tunnle…
    so get up, pick up the pieces, forget about this negative attititude…enjoy life, family and love…at the end, we have only memories to cherish, so make some so that u can cherish them later in life!!
    cease happiness, even the least, when i thought life turned its back for me and life wasnot worthwhile, now the silliest thing makes me smile, even making it to the gym for 10 mnts, makes me happy and thrilled for the day, that silly…
    i would recommend some yoga!!
    wish u peace of mind, dear…

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