A Journey Without a Goal

By Leo Babauta

Nearly every activity we do has a purpose, a goal in mind.

We drive to get to work, to the store, to a class or party. We walk for fitness, or to get to a specific destination. We work to achieve something, to reach certain numbers. We workout to get healthier, to get a nicer body.

But what would happen if we gave up the goal?

What would a journey without a goal be like?

Imagine setting out for a walk with no particular purpose — you might go in one direction because there’s a nice explosion of flowers over there, but then explore a different direction when you see someone playing music, then go in another direction because you’re curious about what’s there.

No destination in mind. Nothing to achieve. Just curiosity, fun, not knowing.

What would it be like to work without a goal? You might write something for fun, because you want to get it out of you, without knowing what the effect of the writing would be. You would figure out the work as you go, without knowing what the finished product would look like.

What would it be like to live life without a fixed plan? Without knowing where you’ll be living in five years, or what you’ll be doing, or what you want to achieve?

I don’t know the answers, but I do know that I’ve been freer as I’ve learned to let go of goals, fixed plans, fixed destinations.

How to Flow

I’ve long been a planner and a goal setter, but I’ve been learning a different way over the last few years. It’s a radical shift in thinking and doing, to a freer-flowing mode of being.

How does it work? Well, to be honest, there’s no one way. But it goes a little something like this:

You wake up, excited about being alive. You wonder, “What do I feel like doing today?” You aren’t constrained to anything at this point, but the question is important.

So you get started, doing something you’re excited about, having fun doing it. Is that thing you’re doing a destination, a goal? Well, in some ways, yes, but it’s not fixed. There’s no set plan, and the destination doesn’t matter as much as the process, the journey.

You start, but you might shift as you go, depending on the flow of ideas, on working with others who might have ideas you didn’t foresee, on things that happen along the way. You couldn’t have predicted these things when you got started, so you have to adapt — no plan can anticipate all of this, no goal would be adequate to the task.

You might even completely shift, if something new comes up, if a new opportunity presents itself. You let go of your idea of what today was going to be, because these ideas of what should be are lightly held. They mean nothing, really, and the important thing is the flow.

You learn to be flexible instead of set. You learn to be good at change and uncertainty, instead of fearing it.

As things arise, you adapt, and let go of your plans and goals. You move with the flow of water, with the changing landscape. You are free to do this because you don’t care where you end up — you just want to be present in your journey, be compassionate with each step, have fun each moment along the way. The destination becomes irrelevant.

No destination or goal matters if they are all good. Each step along the way, then, becomes the destination, and is exactly where you should be.