Genetically Meandering and Goal-Free, or Something

Funny how a subtle change in a suffix or hyphenation can significantly change the connotation of something. As in goal-less or goal-free. One clearly implies not only lack — but a negative one at that, and the other, a sort of liberating, non-shackled state of being. Sort of the difference between:

  • the sad sack who hits the alarm button in the morning with a mental list of, “get up, take a shower, feed the animals, take the car in, pay the bills, defrost the Thanksgiving leftovers for dinner, label my linen closet…” and

  • the ebullient chap who bounds out of bed each day exclaiming, “Yes! The whole day is ahead of me and I can’t wait to find out what amazing things will come my way!”

Okay, well, maybe the contrast is a bit strong, but I came across this site not too long ago, and am probably one of the few who didn’t learn about it on Oprah, because I sort of forget to actually watch Oprah. Yes, I’m home. No, I just don’t think about it. The television doesn’t usually go on until about 7 or 7:30 so we can trash our brains family style watching things like Jeopardy, So You Think You Can Dance, Hell’s Kitchen, and — well, you get the idea. We are sort of in the “goal-free” category of television viewers. We “meander with purpose” to borrow Stephen Shapiro’s phrase.

My mom often tells me she hasn’t had a goal in her life. This admission often comes after we’ve been discussing “stuff.” The stuff can be any number of “things.”

Things like life.

Not so small a thing, or even closely related to stuff. But if I listen carefully, the goal issue usually connects to the idea of planning on, organizing for, going through, and/or getting a career. Not a job or work. A career. Why other things don’t seem to be considered that took her determination and perseverance is beyond me.

IMG_0892 I’ve noticed that people have a tendency to lord it over those who haven’t jumped through life’s hoops. Like there are a set of rules somewhere that we have to follow so that we can be recognized at the end of The Road. Kind of like a graduation. You get there, someone reads your name, and then there’s a list of what you’ve “done” with your life. Career seems to be at the top of the list. Especially a career that is connected to education. A formal education. One that was obtained at an easily recognized and even prestigious institution.

But what if you haven’t done those things? What happens if you have a completely different set of rules that you live your life by? What if your life is goal-free instead of goal-less? More importantly, what if your goals have always been things like:

  • keep your children clean, fed, and well clothed;

  • be relentlessly productive because it is an end in itself;

  • teach your children to be practical;

  • make sure your children do their homework, and clean their rooms;

  • be extremely organized and tidy;

  • make sure your children understand that manners are important, and that they are a reflection of the entire family while in public;

  • focus on functionality;

  • teach your children how to cook, sew, garden, and take care of the house;

  • take time to grow, appreciate, and smell flowers;

  • pay your children an allowance even though you shouldn’t afford it, and teach them how to save that allowance;

  • buy musical instruments and pay for lessons when you know you can’t afford it;

  • tolerate inane jobs to earn a paycheck to feed your children;

  • make sure your children understand that nothing in life is free, so working very hard is how you get ahead;

  • have a day job and a night job;

  • make sure your children understand that education is important;

  • try different jobs when you no longer have to worry about feeding your children;

  • keep reaching because you know there’s something out there for you, just waiting, if you could only see it more clearly, and so many other things didn’t get in the way, distracting you, making you wonder if you should be afraid of reaching.


Yes, what if your life has been filled with those kinds of things?

Are you goal-less, or goal-free? The whole concept fascinates me because it is easy to line up a few people we can all identify as being successful without too much analysis. We default to the “who’s productive and wealthy” criteria that is so often the crux of  our society. But then, after assembling these iconic individuals, we have to examine whether they’ve all jumped through those hoops I mentioned earlier. Often, they have not. What we learn is they had their own set of hoops, and that the hoops were of varying sizes, movable, and sometimes intentionally avoided, or dismissed as being a waste of time.

Hoop-less, or hoop-free? Maybe you think it’s all just Hoop-lah.

What do you want to do? What matters to you? What is important? What will sustain you — and not just your bank account? Because I think that’s the key. If this whole business of making lists and setting goals is never going to be more than crossing off the things on your list, or checking off those boxes, then all you’ll end up with is a list of things you crossed off. Or maybe not.

What if that list says things like:

Travel around the world?

  • You have to want to do this, of course…

  • You have to at least think about how to begin or where to begin
  • You will need to consider how much or little to take with you

Read untranslated works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

  • You might want to consider learning Spanish…and practicing a lot

Be famous?

  • This is relative considering the guy who just got caught for spamming up our emails. Okay, so infamous. But still…

  • You can’t just sit and wait around for it to happen.

  • You have to at least learn what spam is and how to make everyone else miserable with it.

  • Or lose a lot of weight eating Subway Sandwiches instead of home-baked chocolate cookies with macadamia nuts.

Winged Victory

People who want to do things just do them. That’s why Nike tells us to “Just Do It.” What they really mean is, “Shut the funk up and get off your arse. Go brush your teeth and quit stinking up the air space with your monotonous jabbering about what you’re going to do or want to do or wish you could do if only you could do it.” Nike knows us. Well, they really just want us to pay a fortune for their products made for a fraction of a penny on the dollar in third world countries, but that’s another topic. So their marketers know us. Or get paid to act like they do. A lot.

The problem is, when your head feels like it’s going to pop off every minute of every day because you’re just trying to make ends meet (whatever ends are pertinent to an individual’s life) heading in a semi-focused direction beyond survival can feel a tad bit overwhelming. Making that list may seem easier than doing something unfamiliar. Articulating those goals make seem like organizing for action. Being industrious and productive can look great on the surface because you’re “getting things done,” but that just takes up time. The rest of it is horribly messy and doesn’t really fit in any kind of a list, so you never really have to do it. Right?

And when you run out of time at the end of the day, you can get into bed and dream about what you’d really like to do, if only you had the chance.

I am a meanderer. I waver toward whatever I am interested in. Detour here, wrong turn there. Learning and taking notes along the way, but rarely with the journey being described as the shortest distance between two points. The plan would be to get there in the shortest amount of time, but there are just too many shiny things I have to wonder about and understand along the way.

So probably more goal-free than goal-less. But always purposeful.

Unflaggingly. Thanks for the genes, Mom.





5 responses to “Genetically Meandering and Goal-Free, or Something”

  1. I wish I was more linear.
    I truly have perfected the art of going around in ever diminishing circles, eventually spiralling into my own bottom.
    I have been stuck up there for days at a time…

    A very thoughtful post!!


  2. Haven’t I seen something like that on Google images? An image not quite as eloquent as your words make it sound, though…

    It does give me pause regarding the concept of recycling one’s self, however. 🙂

    And I’m sure being linear isn’t all its chalked up to be.

  3. ROFLOL…
    I’m sure Google Images would have a field day with the “spiralling up one’s own bottom” search!!

    Linear – Schminear

  4. earlene

    Thank you I’ve always said “the only accomplishment I am proud of is my three wonderful children. Thanks for reminding me that I had a hand in it. People have asked how I managed to have great kids. My answer was and is “get on em and stay on em” I love you so much for many, many reasons. You make me feel all is right in my world, scary, but I am on the right path, again! Momster

  5. Woot! Momster. I call’em as I see ’em. Hugs.

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