Where do you see yourself in five years?
It’s a common question at job interviews and often creeps in silently when people reach age or career milestones.
Rephrased more broadly, it is asking: What are your goals?
In most Western societies—the only ones I really know—we are told it is good to have goals; that you need to set your sights on a destination and follow that path to its conclusion. It is how you get ahead. It is how you find happiness, or at least the stuff that brings happiness.
I have spent my life working this way.
I tell you this not to present my resume—you can find that on my LinkedIn pages (yeah, I have two)—but rather to explain the pattern of my life (and probably yours) in contrast to where I am today.
You see, for the first time in my life, I have no goals. And I am finding it incredibly disconcerting.
Sure, like everyone else, I have daily, weekly, monthly and yearly obligations.
I need money to pay for rent, food, bills, hockey tickets, beer. I have editorial deadlines and the odd gift to buy. But I have no long-term goals. I am living my life without my next destination in mind.
Five years from now? Hell, I sometimes don’t know where I’ll be five minutes from now.
In some ways, I am as close to living in the moment as you can get without living under a tree or in a cave (basement apartment notwithstanding). And it’s freaking me out.
Having a goal is a hard habit to break after 50+ years.
To be clear, I’m not looking for a goal—floating freely has some lovely benefits—but I struggle some days to know what the point of my day is or was.
Simply being is really simple—it requires no preparation or gear—but our society has taught us that it is wasteful; that it is selfish; that even our “free” time must be productive.
Having no goals, I find, is entirely selfish. I can only affect change in myself.
But I’ve come to realize that “selfish” isn’t bad in and of itself; only when it negatively impacts others, which I don’t believe I am.
Still, like a good Pavlovian pound puppy, I sometimes find myself whimpering at the window, waiting for someone to throw the stick of destiny, to give my life meaning and purpose.
Is it okay or desirable to lead a purpose-less life? Is that my purpose? [Never met-a-physics that didn’t hurt my brain.]
But then, it’s 7:30 a.m. and the alarm goes off. I turn it off and go back to sleep.
Life without goals definitely has its upside.