Life + Health

Goals? What goals?


When I was getting this post draft together in WordPress and entering the keyword tags that go at the bottom, the word “goals” auto-completed as “goats.” I almost didn’t correct it, because frankly, this post might as well be about goats. I think about adorable, bleating farm animals far more often than I do my life ambitions, after all. Right now, though, I do have a goal: Write a post about why I’m not a goal-oriented person.

OK, that’s not entirely true. I do have lots of bite-sized, short-term goals. Stuff like “take a shower” and “repair the porch roof.” (I guess those are called to-do lists. I love to-do lists.) What I don’t have — or have any desire to have — are the long-term vision-y kind of goals, like life lists and that kind of stuff. Honestly, my life list kind of looks like this:

1. See And Also The Trees live, but not if it requires traveling outside of NYC.
2. More Chihuahuas!
3. Conquer adult acne.
4. Don’t go skydiving or engage in any other “thrill-seeking” activities.
5. Don’t sleep outdoors.
6. Be a decent person.
7. …?

And that’s about it. I’m sure there are ambitious, accomplished people reading this who have life lists of their own — real life lists, like the kind that come up when you Google “life list.” Looking at those lists always makes me feel tired, overwhelmed, a little bit scared and a whole lot like I really don’t belong. Just to be totally clear, I don’t have anything against people for whom life lists are beneficial. I don’t think it’s a silly exercise to make one if you feel compelled to do so and it it’s helpful in your life, I’m just here to speak up on behalf of the non-life listers, the non-goal-oriented among us. HELLO, FELLOW LOSERS!!! Just kidding, we’re not losers. We’re just feel like we are sometimes.

The word “perfectionist” gets tossed around a lot, usually as a humblebrag (“My worst trait is that I’m a perfectionist! Tee hee!”), and the truth is that it’s a trait that really carries a lot of negative weight. Since I went to the Wikipedia School of Psychology for my internet doctorate degree, I’ll quote from their article on the subject:

Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards. It is best conceptualized as a multidimensional characteristic, as psychologists agree that there are many positive and negative aspects. In its maladaptive form, perfectionism drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal, and their adaptive perfectionism can sometimes motivate them to reach their goals. In the end, they derive pleasure from doing so. When perfectionists do not reach their goals, they often fall into depression.

Yeah. That. Except in my experience, that whole adaptive perfectionism/motivational stuff really only plays out when it comes to short-term/immediate goals (see: to-do lists), and the long-term goals/”way of living” kind of things are the ones that lead to a whole lot of personal disappointment…and that other D-word, too.

Beyond the defective brain stuff (and I say that as someone with a defective brain and as a lover of other defective brains), I tend to want to live in the moment when it comes to making plans. I don’t know if what I think I feel like doing today is the same thing I’m going to want to do next week, let alone five years from now! That doesn’t mean I’m incapable of making confident decisions. In fact, I think I’m pretty good at making up my mind to do things when the time comes, and I’m good at following through. If I decide on Wednesday that I’m going to tile the kitchen on Sunday, I’m not going to let a 102° fever and a bronchial infection stand in my way! Stupid? Yeah, a little, but the kitchen looks great.

There’s an upside to this lack of planning and goal-setting, I swear. I think it’s my lack of career ambition that’s allowed me to feel satisfied in the same job (I have been promoted several times, but I’m still a book cover cover designer at the same publishing company that hired me right out of art school) for 15 years. Maybe that sounds really dismal, but it’s not. The fact that I don’t feel like I need to constantly be looking for something “better” or more prestigious means that I’ve been able to become emotionally connected to my workplace in addition to having a professional connection. I’ve been working with the same core group of people for a decade and a half, and that’s a great feeling. It’s a little old-fashioned, I think, right? When I was a kid, my friends’ parents had worked for the same companies for years. That’s definitely not the norm (at least in NYC) for my generation, and I know very, very few people who have had the same job for more than four or five years.

Anyway, all I’m getting at here is this: You don’t have to constantly be working toward something you think will be bigger or better. You don’t have to sell your first house to buy a bigger one. (You don’t even have to buy a house in the first place.) You don’t have to visualize your life as you want it to be. It’s OK to be happy where you are right now, and to find contentment in the mundane. You can live in the same city for your entire life and still be a well-rounded, fulfilled person. Reading a book you found by chance on a park bench can be every bit as thrilling as going skydiving. It’s OK. Leave yourself open to opportunities you could never have thought of in the first place. You don’t have to be that person who’s constantly planning for the next amazing thing. That doesn’t make you boring or a loser or a failure. Everyone everywhere feels disappointed in themselves at times, and none of us are ever really living up to our true potential. That’s alright. We don’t have to be perfectly realized humans living carefully mapped-out lives. If your only goal in life is to be a decent person, that’s already a lot to think about and work toward. Human decency is an ongoing process that requires constant introspection as well as observation of those around us. That’s a pretty huge goal.

I know this post isn’t going to resonate with most of the people who read it, but I’m hoping there are one or two of you out there who will understand what I’m talking about. Cheers to us, the realists and the dreamless and the non-life listers! May we always find as much happiness in petting goats as others do with setting goals.

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  • Reply Erin June 11, 2013 at 11:52 am


  • Reply Jaime June 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Goals? Where we’re going we don’t need goals.

  • Reply em June 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

    What an excellent post. I went to private school that tried to turn everyone into a doctor or a lawyer or a managing director or something high powered and worthy of the fee’s, so dreaming big was etched into us. But recently I’ve been wondering if it shouldn’t be more ok to be the person who isn’t striving to be in charge, who likes the life they live but doesn’t need to push all the time to do more. I’m currently on a long term temporary contract, and loving the jobs I’m doing so I’m not thinking beyond it!
    Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t have ambitions, it’s just my ambitions are more centered around making sure my friends and family are ok, challenging myself to learn more life skills {tiling would be one of those I haven’t quite mastered yet} and enjoying the life I live outside of work.
    I do however love a good to-do list – even if I don’t accomplish more than half the things on it!

    • Anna @ D16 June 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      Yeah, it’s true, when I say I don’t have ambitions, I really do mean on a grand scale or beyond what I know I’m immediately capable of. There are a lot of basic, day to day things that I struggle with — the kind of things that come easily for most people — and it does often take a lot of drive and ambition to push through that.

  • Reply Nina June 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Wow. I am not alone. As a fellow to do list-lover and someone who has actually petted goats (its awesome), I thank you for this post, oh kindred spirit!

  • Reply Amanda June 11, 2013 at 11:58 am

    That was all I was needing to read. Thank you, Anna <3

  • Reply Hilary June 11, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I agree with all of this. Thanks for verbalizing it so perfectly!

  • Reply whitney June 11, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I’m not a life-lister either (but I’m all about the to-do list!). I cringe every time someone asks me about long-term goals. My brain just doesn’t work that way. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone, and especially nice to hear it from another designer/artist.

    • Anna @ D16 June 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      I have this conversation in my head all the time —

      Normal person: So, where do you picture yourself in 10 years?
      Me: I don’t know, but I hope my hair looks good!

      Except usually I just wind up getting totally flustered and then apologizing for really not having any idea.

    • jbhat June 11, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      Exactly! To me, a long term goal is “growing my bangs out.” I have never been a goal setter, for better or worse. But I’m content, and I think that’s important.


  • Reply Kelly June 11, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Really needed to hear this. Right now. Going to let it marinate and then come back here and say something more.

  • Reply Paisley June 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Oh, Anna! How I could go on! (I just wrote you a separate comment about the Bodum Cold Press…) I’ll try not to ramble too, too much, but… I think we all grapple with this in different ways. For example, just based on following your blog, I am pretty sure I have traveled more than you — that has been a priority to me, when I can afford it (less and less these days). But you would not believe the sorry, empty state of my very substantially sized apartment! It is such a shame, because I think any minute now I’ll be priced out of it (like you with your job, I have lived in my apartment for YEARS), and yet I just have not been able to get the money and time together to make it more of a home — even though I am well into my adulthood. When I think that my mother, at my age, had a well-appointed, middle-class house in the suburbs, and was married with children, while I am terminally single and literally do not even own a sofa and just have hideous overhead lights, not even one table lamp! (But vintage clothes piled everywhere, of course.) Whereas look at your two gorgeous, near “perfect” (to my eyes) places. I keep reading for inspiration, and for the day when I might finally manage to make something resembling a “home” for myself. But if it hasn’t happened yet…?

    (If you ever decide to freelance as an interior designer, maybe I could hire you 🙂

    For me, personally, 2008 was a pivotal year: Up until that point, I had been trying to save for some sort of something, some sort of grown-up future I had some modicum of faith would happen — presumably a down payment on an apartment. Then the recession hit, my income went down, my apartment went into a massive renovation and my rent went up — and my father was hospitalized for months and ultimately died. Since then, and like so many Americans in some way or another, I’ve just tried to stay afloat. But the savings cushion is gone, and I’m not really sure what the point of anything is…you know?

    What a cheerful comment, right? I keep thinking I need to find an effective and also satisfying way to volunteer, but since my life is so unstable as it is, it seems I should first get my own house in order, metaphorically and literally…

    Anyway, I read the following a few months ago and, yes, it is totally self-indulgent, but parts of it really resonated with me. I never read Prozac Nation back in the day, and I’m sure that the author is as controversial and narcissistic as people think. Still, again…in some ways I could relate. But when I shared it with a few friends, they were all kinds of horrified by it! So were the the vast majority of commenters on NY Mag’s website — people went ballistic. You might find it completely offensive, too, but…here it is, to add to the conversation:

    Anyway, I think you have accomplished amazing things, you have two beautiful homes, two beautiful dogs, and a man who loves you. Who needs a life list when you’ve got a life?

    • Anna @ D16 June 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      I totally get what you’re saying, Paisley, and I really, really do understand that feeling of wondering what all of the planning and saving and so forth was for when real life steps in the way of realizing the vision we had for what our lives would be like. That doesn’t mean we have to give up on it all, of course, but I think there’s something to be said for slowing down and taking some time to figure out how to be happy in less than ideal circumstances.

      I’ll check out the Wurtzel article tonight. I never read Prozac Nation either, so I don’t really have any preconceived notions about her.

    • josie June 11, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      “who needs a life list when you’ve got a life”

      i like that. thanks.

    • deb June 12, 2013 at 7:10 am

      I really liked this article, particularly this;

      “I was amazed to discover that, according to The Atlantic, women still can’t have it all. Bah! Humbug! Women who have it all should try having nothing: I have no husband, no children, no real estate, no stocks, no bonds, no investments, no 401(k), no CDs, no IRAs, no emergency fund—I don’t even have a savings account. ”

      ….that really made me laugh! Instead of feeling relieved that “having it all” is not altogether feasible (and finally being able to give up my highly paid corporate job to look after my two beautiful children and concentrate on my yoga practice whilst spending quality time with my handsome husband who, coincidentally, has given up his hedge fund management gig in favour of becoming a custom cabinet maker), all this talk has been making me feel a bit shit for never having been REMOTELY close to having it all (finally started on low paying and not particularly rewarding career path in mid-thirties, always a bit too chubby for comfort, never had children etc etc blah blah). For years, the spectre of guilt has been hanging over me that I have not reached my potential, that I didn’t try harder, that I haven’t pushed myself more, especially as I had a relatively nice and supportive upbringing and I guess I could have “done better”. Jesus, it’s all such a waste of time, though, isn’t it? Thanks, Anna, for the thought provoking post and thanks, Paisley, for the link. xd

  • Reply Kelsey June 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I am both a perfectionist and a goal-maker, and I really appreciate this post.

    I struggle with my own expectations of myself and this is a good reminder that some of those goals aren’t really all that important. There’s a lot of pressure in your twenties (and I’m sure beyond) to have a fabulous career, get married, etc. etc. It’s nice to have this reminder that I can do things in my own time, if I want to do them at all.

    Thanks, Anna!

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 9:46 am

      Kelsey, yes, it definitely continues beyond your 20s, but I do think at some point there’s a shift where it becomes a little less about pressure from your “superiors” (teachers, parents, bosses, etc.) and more about comparing yourself to your peers. Maybe that has to do in part with the fact that by the time you hit your mid-30s, the friends you keep closest are the ones who tend to share your outlook on life — or at least respect your choices and understand that people function differently and may have different priorities in life.

  • Reply Sarah June 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I DO consider myself a goal oriented person… But I should revise that to say that I’m project oriented.

    My major concern in life is contentment, and currently I am extremely content. Why would I mess with that by moving into a bigger house, changing jobs or relocating? Changing any of those things may disturb the balance that I’ve found. The more I try to live a “lifestyle” rather than embrace the things that truly make me happy – the worse off I am.

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Ah yes, the L-word. As someone who sometimes winds up being categorized as a “lifestyle blogger,” I must say I’m not really a fan of the word — or at least not what it implies. I don’t have a grand vision of what I want my life to be, or of what kind of being I want to emulate. Sadly, I think one of the worst things that’s come from the rise of design/home/lifestyle (hah) blogs is the idea that we should be selecting a path to follow based a predetermined set of ideals shown in pretty photographs. Life just doesn’t work that way, and I see too many people — particularly women — in a state of frustration over not being able to achieve that ideal “lifestyle.”

  • Reply maja June 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Anna, you are so enlightened. It took a life threatening illness in our family for me to come to this realization. There is no happiness in goal setting, we only have the here an now. Have you heard of the Brazilian parable of the fisherman and the businessman?

  • Reply Christie June 11, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    Goats, baby.

  • Reply Lori June 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Well said. I am completely there with you in feeling overwhelmed and out of touch with the goal-setters and life-listers. I prefer—and I think my well-being depends on—living day to day and not obsessing over constantly checking off the next big goal on my list. And wouldn’t the world be a better place if more of us would make being a decent person our ultimate goal??

  • Reply Colleen June 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    You’ve articulated so well what I feel. I dread my annual review where I have to answer the question of where I want to be in five years (I’ve been at the same company for 13 years). I love what I do, and that question always makes me feel like I’m not ambitious enough or upwardly mobile or a good employee. Can’t I just love what I do, and continue to do that to the best of my abilities?

    • kelly w June 11, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      This. SO MUCH this.

  • Reply Krysti June 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Ahhh! A weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Thank you. Sometimes my life goals can be really over whelming & I find that I end up preventing myself from doing them by bogging myself down with other ‘goals’ (generally, silly goals I make up along the way. Mostly home improvement things). But ya know what? We just need to breath and things will happen when they happen, right?! Wonderful post, Anna!

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:00 am

      If owning an old house has taught me anything, it’s that setting renovation/home improvement goals tied to a timeline is an exercise in frustration. Money, health, time and a million other things have a way of unexpectedly forcing plans to change, and there truly is no point in making a situation harder than it already is by trying to adhere to an unsustainable or unachievable vision. (I think unrealistic goals are part of what was behind the huge real estate bust we saw a few years ago, but that’s a whole ‘nother post!)

  • Reply Liza June 11, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Congratulations on finding what most people are truly trying to achieve…contentment and job satisfaction! You should be proud!

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:04 am

      Have I found contentment and job satisfaction? I don’t actually think so, but that’s also not really what I want for my life. I think satisfaction and contentment are things that I strive to achieve on a more micro level — satisfaction with a specific book cover, contentment with the comfort of my home, etc. Not feeling pressure to strive for something “bigger and better” isn’t really about being a static person, it’s about working hard within the structure of an existing situation. Does that make sense?

  • Reply Mimi June 11, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Ohhh Anna, THANK YOU. You speak my mind, fully and truly. 🙂

    I come from a family of PhDs, scientists and all around accomplished people (more or less), but I myself have “only” a graphic design HND. I am 24yo, I have no savings, no own property, heck, not even a “real” job. But I guess that is okay, I am still floating on, working on our small creative agency start-up (, painting dogs and now getting ready to write and illustrate a book.

    As you, I LOVE to make to-do lists, but I can’t really plan anything “for life” because I change my mind quickly, and anyway, how am I supposed to know what will be in 5 years? I like to dream on it, but then reality is always different.

    But! HUGS TO ALL OF US!!! We are awesome! I am proud of us 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Mimi, it sure sounds to me like you’re doing a whole lot for someone in their early 20s! Writing and illustrating a book? Wow!! That’s very cool. 🙂

  • Reply Lily June 11, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    I never comment but wanted to say I really love this post. I feel I always have to be on to the next thing with my career, but if I think about it I actually don’t want work to define my life. Being a decent person, on the other hand, is something I really hope achieve. Thanks for the perspective.

  • Reply Lizzie June 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Whoa thanks for this post! I’ve never heard someone else articulate these feelings that I’ve also grappled with. I feel like I have some vague big goals and other smaller goals, but mostly I just want to be open to whatever adventures come along and not rigidly married to some expectant outcome. Also, sometimes I dont understand why the idea of someday having a family or travelling or having a nice garden or a meditation practice aren’t as meaningful as loftier ‘career goals.’ In many ways, they are the things that bring me more joy and deep fulfillment. Anyways, thanks for this post and for reminding me that being a decent person is a lot to think about and work towards.. How profoundly true!

  • Reply Ingrid June 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Oooooohhhhhhh, how this speaks to me! I thought I was the only designer that felt this way. I get such odd looks when I say that I’m not a goal-oriented person. Thank you for the awesome post.

  • Reply Elizabeth V. June 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Thanks Anna, I feel ya.
    My only goal is to live a good life, and help others do the same.
    It seems simple, but it can be pretty tough sometimes.

  • Reply julia June 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    yes yes! thank you for putting these ideas into words. i am totally there with you (and the other commenters who agreed with you). i always think, oh having a life list would be cool. but i have no idea what i would put on it. i obsessively write to-do lists and love having small tasks to achieve but life goals overwhelm me. i’ve been at the same job for seven years (very unusual for our generation, agreed, and for the nonprofit sector too) and after three years, i had friends asking me if i was looking for another job yet. i couldn’t understand why i would be. there is something very valuable in being content with what you have and where you are in life and not always looking for something bigger and better. if you’re content with your life, why ruin that? excellent post.

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Thanks, Julia — I’m nodding and smiling right along with your entire comment. 🙂

  • Reply amanda June 11, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    great post. i often feel like an under-achiever when a dear friend graduates from med school, or an old classmate brags about their amazing trip to some exotic land. can’t i just be happy working my fun graphic design job, watching tv with the husband and playing with my doggies? yeah, i think i am.

  • Reply Sarah June 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Thanks for writing this! This totally speaks to me right now.

    My friend recently visited me and she had three things that she wanted to do that were on her life list and we completed them all. They weren’t all huge events (one was having a beer on a rooftop in New York) but she had planned these things and made a special trip to do them. I felt like a loser because I don’t have any real “bucket list” or, like, places that I’m dying to visit or mountains I want to climb or bungee jump off of. I feel like that makes me a boring person but I am quite content and I definitely don’t lead a boring life!

    I guess I have plans but they’re constantly evolving. I do like seeing where things go without the severity of the idea of goals.

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:13 am

      I don’t lead a boring life either, but I suspect a lot of people who read my blog think that I probably do. 😉

  • Reply Kayla June 11, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this. As a college student it is nice to hear an adult who is happy with their life having this philosophy. Maybe I’m not screwed after all!

  • Reply Emily June 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for YEARS and have never commented. I think you are a smart, beautiful, lovely human being. I like peeking into your world and hearing what you have to say. It makes me feel good.

    That said, I AM GOING TO PRINT THIS OUT AND FRAME IT. (kidding, sort of)

    I turn 40 next month and feel this internal and external pressure to have life goals and shit. I don’t. And I felt like it was a flaw for some reason.

    Then I read this. And I’m not kidding, I almost started crying.

    It’s perfect.
    And just what I needed. Thanks for the early 40th bday present, Anna.
    Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re so good at it.

    • shelley June 11, 2013 at 10:04 pm

      Emily, I’m turning 40 next month too! And I was also thinking this post needed to be put on a poster or something ……. Neat that we have these similarities 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:15 am

      Emily, this is such a nice comment. I’m only a couple of years behind you in the age department (I’ll be 38 in a few months), and I think the best thing about getting older is that people start to give up on you. Hah! Just kidding…sort of. 😉

  • Reply Stephanie Wells June 11, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I love this. There is nothing I hate more than being asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

  • Reply Amy June 11, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    This was the perfect thing for me to read this afternoon.

    I spent about a decade, from 15 to 25, being severely goal-oriented, to the point where I was constantly disappointed in myself because I set these ridiculously ambitious goals that would realistically take years to accomplish, and by that time not accomplishing them felt more like giving up or failure rather than a change of mind or the normal, natural growing up I was doing.

    In the past couple of years I’ve let go of the habit, and try now to think about what choices I can make that will make me my happiest RIGHT NOW. I occasionally look a little further forward than today or tomorrow, and I have some longer term goals sort of lurking in my head, but in a more loose and undefined way (ex. some day I’d like to live on large-ish piece of land VS in 5 years I must be living on 30 acres in the New Hampshire woods if I ever stand any chance of being happy).

    The past few years have been my favorite.

    Anyway, all that to say, thank you for sharing this and you are definitely NOT alone!

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:18 am

      Amy, what a wonderful realization you’ve had! This is exactly what I’m saying — it’s not about giving up on moving forward or being opposed to any changes in life, it’s about letting go of the idea that happiness in dependent on the achievement of specific goals. I’m glad you’ve found happiness. 🙂

  • Reply Jessica June 11, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Yes, yes, yes. I couldn’t agree more!

  • Reply Amy June 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Love it! This is exactly what I needed today!!

  • Reply Nancy June 11, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    THANK YOU. I mean, I have stuff that I would like to do in my life; for example, I like to travel so I want to do more of that but in general, I like having things wide open in front of me. Sometimes, I worry if this means that I’m passion-less or something but I’ve decided that it’s okay not to have tunnelvision. 🙂

  • Reply Danielle June 11, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Yes. This. All of it.

    I recently had a conversation with a girlfriend that was along the lines of:
    Me: “I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t have any particular career ambitions, I just want to make enough money to enjoy life. I don’t want to be rich, but I don’t want to struggle. And I don’t want to have babies – it seems like other women my age get to the ‘What to do next?’ point and they feel its the babies. That’s what comes next. But I don’t feel that.”
    Friend: “Well, I have no advice to give. Women are usually career or babies. I don’t know what you should do if it’s neither!”

    I have been feeling very lost since that conversation. And now, though I still feel lost, at least I know its not just me. Thanks for sharing Anna.

    • donna June 11, 2013 at 4:15 pm


    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:19 am

      I am sooooooo with you, Danielle.

    • Frau Haselmayer June 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      You’re soooo not alone with this!

    • Jana September 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      Yes and yes. Being a 38 year old woman living in the Bible Belt of Texas and not wanting children Is difficult and isolating at times. There is an underlying expectation for you to have kids, and if you don’t, there must be a reason other than choice.

  • Reply Ryan June 11, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    I don’t know about this post not resonating with the majority of readers, Anna…this really resonated with me! And everyone else who commented. And like other people have responded, exactly what I needed to hear! Thanks!

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:21 am

      I am honestly SHOCKED by the reaction to this post. I thought maybe 3 or 4 people would get it, and that there would be 50 comments explaining to me why it’s so important to have life lists and dreams and goals and that I’m a horrible old loser wasting my life away. Haha! I’m relieved and very, very surprised to know that so many people understand this feeling.

  • Reply jesse.anne.o June 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I do really love this post. I feel like I get a lot done but it’s often organic and sometimes reactive and that’s okay. I feel like it gives me the space to let opportunity come knocking.

    I feel like so much of the striving comes from being inundated with Lifehack/progressive living type lifestyle stuff. Only recently have I heard people start saying that they are happy with a job-job and don’t feel like they need to seek the perfect life-job in order to be happy. Or to maximize every minute of every day.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. I have a very similar goal and goat list and that was nice to see.

  • Reply Marjorie June 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Well said.

    For me, it’s all about contentment. That’s what inspired me to blog. It’s about being happy exactly where you are. That doesn’t mean you can’t list goals or want the next best phone when it comes out, but learning to be happy in the now is what makes life so great. That’s when you can enjoy the little things.

  • Reply Erin June 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Resonate? More like you crawled inside my brain and more eloquently said what I feel every time I see the phrase “life list,” or look around and realize I’m surrounded by people wanting “more” while I feel pretty good with what I’ve got. (Does that sound obnoxious? I don’t mean it to. But I’m sure you get that.)

    Thank you for sharing this. Us losers have to stick together, after all!

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 10:23 am

      It doesn’t sound obnoxious to me, Erin, for what it’s worth. 😉

  • Reply Caroline June 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you!! Yup.

  • Reply esther June 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    I am a long-time reader, first-time poster. Thank you so much for this post. I have so many things in my mind right now I don’t know where to start. I thought I was alone in dreading the “where do you think you will be in five years” question; I just know I want to be happy doing what I do, and I just realized there is nothing bad with that! I want to keep writing my to-do lists and trying to help people.
    Really, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

  • Reply Maija June 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I hate it when at job-interviews people ask me: “Where do you see yourself in five years.” And I don’t have a clue what to say, because I never plan my life like that. I just sort of go with the flow, and so far it has worked out fine. 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Personally, if I were in charge of hiring employees, I’d want to know that a potential hire is capable of flexibility and adaptation (and loyalty!) more than them just being career-builder with grand personal aspirations. Those aspirations probably mean that employee is going to be looking for another job in a couple of years…

  • Reply Sara June 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Thanks for a great post, Anna.

  • Reply liz June 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I get asked for advice about careers and I never know what to say. I have moved jobs in the 18 years since I left full-time education. Sometimes because it felt right for me to do something a bit different and sometimes because I had to. But I’ve never had a career plan, or any other plan. I have just hoped that work will be fun. And when I tell the latest person who’s asked me who I got here that I just took a new job when it felt right, stayed put when it felt right and didn’t worry about what would come after this role they look like I’m refusing to share a secret. I know some people plan life but I can’t do more than write a to do list. (I sometimes do things on the list too. But only sometimes…) And I’d worry if I did plan the p-thing would make the whole thing very dangerous. I can deal re-doing something basic over and over again until I get it right enough to satisfy me, knowing that everyone else thought the first version was good enough. I can’t imagine how destructive this trait would be for me if put the same focus on a 10 year plan.

    I think big goals are a bit like curtains. Some people think curtains are essential and that every window has to have them. Some people shudder at the thought of them. Goals are kinda the same.

    (I don’t think your view on goals is exactly mine but this post did resonate. You’ve helped me feel comfortable with my discomfort. So thanks!)

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Hah! Indeed. And I am definitely not a curtain person. 😉

  • Reply Simone June 11, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    I got this message in the mail today, thought that this was such a “coincidence” in relation to this post that I should share this with you (and anybody else interested):

    “…that at some point it may serve you to decide that a particular project or undertaking is complete.

    Seeking excellence is one thing; never finding anything totally satisfactory is another.
    It is as I have told you before: Perfection is the obstacle of creation and the enemy of achievement.

    At some point you’ve got to say, “This is good. And this is enough.”
    If you cannot do this, you will never get anything done — and that is the opposite of what you want, is it not?”

    One of the best things our daughter taught me was when I was not so happy with something she did, she answered: “But Mom I’m doing my best” and that sums it up in my mind, just do your best that’s just fine.
    And you know you get to places, taking steps, not by taking one giant leap and landing at the end.
    “Happiness is a direction (you move in) not a point (you aim for).” (I translated this from Dutch)
    I get soooo stressed and detached from everything when I prefer my goals over my life.
    I make to-do lists all the time, I find they clear my mind for working in the moment.
    Have a wonderful day.

  • Reply Kelly June 11, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    My previous (first 25 years of my life) perfectionism/ambitiousness when it comes to long term goals/goal setting + late (the period of like 25-30) frequent disappointment, has put me into a bit of paralysis in my mid-30’s. But this post just kind of pulled the pin out of that – it was a great reminder. To live in and be okay with and lean into the discomfort/confusion/random. To embrace it a bit. Thoughts still jumbled and not making sense here, but this has given me a lot to think about. So thank you. 🙂

  • Reply Jules June 11, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    This is funny, because I am a goal/life list person and I don’t disagree with you. I went to a conference a while back where it was required for attendees to write a life list. I did. At one point we had to share our lists and it was brought to my attention that the items on my life list weren’t “goal-y” enough. The most important items on my list were “read the Chronicles of Narnia with the boys,” “make them quilts,” “sleep 8 hours per night for 30 days” etc. They were of the “be a better person” variety. I ended up tossing in some career related items in the end to better fit in with everyone else. I left the conference feeling kind of like a loser for not having goals that centered around world or media domination, but I’m over it now. I want to be known as a good person and an even better mom. My goals in life seem pretty simple when compared to landing a book deal, but they kind of kick book deal’s ass in difficulty of fulfillment.

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 11:33 am

      Yes. To all of this. I knew there was a reason I like you. 😉

      (This is also a large part of the reason why it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever attend a formal blogging conference or gathering of any sort. The rare occasions in which I find myself immersed in that world, the more I feel like hiding in a cave for the rest of my life. It’s sort of how I felt the few times I watched Sex & the City.)

  • Reply Arin June 11, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I have been think about this subject a lot and your post totally resonates.

  • Reply Leonora June 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Ha! I share your lack of excitement for sleeping outdoors, though every few years I seem to forget and am convinced to give it a try…
    A daily beast article shares a quote from Christine Quinn’s memoir
    “In a weird way I’m actually not a long-term planner, maybe because I’ve learned that you never know what might happen around the next corner. I often say that my five-year plan is to be thinner, and that’s about it.”

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 11:35 am

      I don’t love everything about Quinn, and I don’t think she’s the best candidate for NYC mayor, but I do like that quote. Makes me interested to read the rest of her book.

  • Reply Deborah June 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Well cheers to that indeed.

  • Reply Angela Muller June 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Even in high school/college, I wasn’t a competitive person; hoping to be noticed for the highest grade, best essay, or comparing my test grades to those around me. I achieved because I wanted to, for myself……and, at times, I failed because the goals set before me held no interest. Decades later, I’m still that person; content with doing those things that give me pleasure, nurturing relationships that enhance my life and appreciating the small things that make life wondrous and worth living. Congratulations to you for being confident enough to be who you want to be.

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 11:41 am

      I was like that in high school. I was in all of the honors classes because I scored well on tests and I read a lot of books, but I really could not have cared less about my grades or anything like that. I didn’t even study for my SATs. I knew I wanted to go on to higher education, but it wasn’t because I felt like there were specific things I needed to achieve, necessarily — even back then, it was more about wanted to be more knowledgeable and exposed to more stuff, and to be around other people who were interested in the same things. I got SO much out of college, but it really never was about wanting it to lead to a magnificent career. Of course, I’m pretty sure most art students aren’t thinking they’re going to land killer jobs with high paychecks when they graduate. 😉

  • Reply maria June 11, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for writing this. so speaks to my heart. and I really needed to hear this today. as always, love your blog.

    also this:
    “Normal person: So, where do you picture yourself in 10 years?
    Me: I don’t know, but I hope my hair looks good! ”


  • Reply Ashley June 11, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    This totally helps me feel better about not having a huge goal and just being happy where I am and with what I’m doing. Sometimes I feel like I just want to rest where I am, but the whole world is saying go-go-go. You need to be making this much $$$ by now. You need to have kids by now. You need to have traveled the world by now. It’s very encouraging to know, that not everyone is like that and not every needs to be type-a go getter.

  • Reply alicia June 11, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Sigh, I feel so much calmer, relaxed and non-pressured now. That felt good.

    Thanks for the obvious yet refreshing reminder that you DON’T have to always do and worry and achieve EVERYTHING

  • Reply Judi June 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Anna Dorfman, life coach! Seriously…the world needs to read this. And then live like this. I went to a school which counts numerous presidents (of the USA) and everything south of that, career-wise, among its alums, and always wondered why “being the best person you can be” was not more highlighted as a life goal at my alma mater. I have done pretty much what I wanted throughout my career (all three of them), despite frequent remonstrations from many that I wasn’t always living up to my potential. So, when I finally did, I really wasn’t prepared for the backlash when I quit my job last year at the (gasp) height of career 3, and then (gasp) actually decamped from Brooklyn to live and work in Vermont. Today, I make less than 1/10 of what I used to, and I’m (gasp) much happier. (And that career was non-profit based, so no, I didn’t bring a $1 million checking account with me. We budget, er, aggressively.) Right now, I’m commenting on this post from my kitchen, having a drink with my husband, who’s making dinner. That’s an outcome of the non-goal-based, happiness-pursuing, life I found after I stopped trying to be the person everyone else told me I could, and should, be.

    Ironic footnote? I recently wrote and posted on my blog my first life list (at almost 50!) as an experiment, and because I had time, and because I wanted to do more fun things, and keep track of the things I wanted to do. I would never have written one before…I never had time.

    Thank you, Anna, as always!

    • Judi June 11, 2013 at 7:12 pm

      p.s. This post is almost a sequel to the “good enough” missing baseboard post. Which I also agree with (sentiment and missing woodwork).

    • Anna @ D16 June 12, 2013 at 11:44 am

      Love this comment, Judi, thank you!! I must say, though…if anyone EVER suggests that I should be their life coach, they should turn around and run in the opposite direction immediately. I know nothing! I am the absolute worst when it comes to advising people on what they should be doing with their lives. I dread even being asked whether I like a certain shirt! 😀

    • Judi June 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      You don’t know nothing…you know a great deal. You know how to live, and you know how to be inspiring, and you know how to be generous with your time, and you know how to be helpful even to people you’ve never met (I should know). That, in my humble opinion, more than amply qualifies you to be a coach (which after all is only a weird, inappropriate, overly athletically oriented term for ‘she who empowers others to take their lives into their own hands,’ but the only other term I can ever think of is ‘cheerleader,’ which might be even more inappropriate for other reasons!).

  • Reply gracie June 11, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    This resonates with me enormously because my real heart’s desire, the thing that what I want the most, and I hope I am and when I fail, I am trying to be again, is a good person. It’s all I want to be.

  • Reply Melinda's Musings June 11, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I’ve been following your blog for a while, but I think this is the first post I’ve really taken time to read thoroughly (actually twice!) I’m a to-do list maker as well, but struggle with setting big-picture goals. I always think there’s something wrong with me for that, since I too am a motivated, sometimes perfectionist. I love how honest you are about your lack of goal-setting. I bet you didn’t think so many people would find this post to be so inspiring, but it is! And I really appreciate that you said human decency is a pretty big goal. A lot of our goals are not even in the realm of human decency in this era.

    Also that is pretty awesome that you’ve been at your company for 15 years. Especially in New York, you’re right, it’s normally a 3-5 year time frame and onto the next one! I’m a childrenswear designer in the city, and you’ve made me re-think how I look at my job and my career a little.

  • Reply Robin June 11, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Your blog is one of the very few blogs where I enjoy reading the post AND all the comments.
    You have great readers!!
    I totally get what you and all the others are saying. I feel so lucky just to know how to relax and enjoy myself. Not too long ago I got real interested interested in quilting and bought myself a machine made for fast multi-directional sewing. It is one of those things that takes a lot of practice to get good. I love to spend time on that thing in the evenings to practice. It always makes me feel good. Is there such a thing as sewing endorphins? Whatever. Wouldn’t probably work for most people, but so glad I have my happy place. I am sure some quilts will get made; reading all your ideas & readers’ comments put things into proper perspective!! The process is my happy place.

    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 9:58 am

      I really DO have great readers, Robin, and I feel very fortunate for that. I come from the old school of blogging where the resulting dialogue often becomes as important as the post itself, and I really do appreciate how many people take the time to write such thoughtful (and often personal) responses. THIS is why I have a blog — to share.

      And yes, I’m pretty sure there’s such a thing as sewing endorphins. I think they come from the same part of the brain that makes me want to throw my sewing machine out the window. 😉 You’re lucky they make you feel the opposite way!!

  • Reply kelly w June 11, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    I love this.
    Really excellent thoughts, and the way you said it is (I think) some of your best writing. So conversational and reassuring, while still being frank and objective.

    (PS I read that one sentence as ‘That’s a pretty huge goat.’ 🙂 )

    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

      Thanks, Kelly. 🙂

  • Reply Karolina June 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you. I really needed this today.

    My husband and I recently seperated and one of the hardest things to deal with is now feeling lost and not knowing what my life goals/plans are. I didn’t really have any before – very much like you in that regard – but now that faint outline of my future has been erased and I feel overwhelmed with not knowing where I’m going (by myself).

    I think its ok to just be in the moment and derive enjoyment from the to do lists. All those little things eventually add up to some big things. I think everyone is a little too concerned with climbing higher and higher – but are they happier? I would say the majority are not.

    As the corny saying goes “It’s about the journey, not the destination”.

  • Reply Shelley June 11, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    OK wow this is my favorite post of yours (and I really do like all of them!) I can’t believe that someone else has the same thoughts on “life goals”. If I was a better writer this is exactly what I would have written on the subject. I make lists galore but they are all short term do this now, pick this up, turn this off…. I have no idea what I want to do in one year let alone five and I don’t like making plans because I never know if I will still want to do such and such next Wednesday. I prefer to just go about each day thinking what do I want to do now and I usually end up pretty happy that I didn’t commit to something.

    Thanks so much writing this, it makes me feel good knowing I am not alone, oh and I love the line about being a realist and not a dreamer (that is so me!)


    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 10:16 am

      Thank you, Shelley. I think I actually am a bit of a dreamer, though, but only when it’s really not helpful at all — like when I’m dreaming that all of my work will magically finish itself even though I’ve been procrastinating for weeks on end. I guess maybe that’s more that’s more a sign that I’m delusional than a dreamer, though, hmmmm…

  • Reply Shelley June 11, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    oh and I forgot to say in my last comment that goats are my favorite animal so I feel an even greater connection to this post 🙂

  • Reply mcgrathinnola June 11, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    After 60 years, goal: Roof, food, dancing feet,teeth, a/c ,60th anniversry with my hubs…. thanks for reaffirming living each day. 😉

  • Reply Natasha June 11, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you for writing this, I needed to hear it. I just left a job that was constantly trying to push people into striving for “bigger things” it resulted in stress and burnout for most people.

  • Reply Mel Buchanan June 11, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    okay … just fell a little bit more in love with you 🙂
    I just love that second to last paragraph so much, I might print it out and put it on my fridge!
    and for the record … I like to pet goats – and other animals – *and* make huge life goals.
    God (or you know, whoever) help me! x

  • Reply Rebecca June 11, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    Oh I just love this post because it touches on something good and something as Americans supposed to be striving for the “American Dream” we never want to admit or talk about. I mean we don’t want to be complacent but the idea that it’s OK to appreciate where you’re at or that your ambitions aren’t the grandest of the grand. I like that you put it into words so eloquently. Something I’d been feeling but hadn’t been able to think out. It reminded me of two things that happened to me. Someone asked if I could go anywhere in Europe right now where I would go and I said I’d rather see some more of America and they just thought that was the lamest dream ever. And as I figure out my career path, people get confused that my ambitions don’t involve me being the top boss. Thank you, thank you, thank you Anna for putting this all out there. It’s a nice little boost 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 10:20 am

      Rebecca!! I hear you on the “see more of America thing,” totally. I think everyone (including Americans) has a tendency to forget how ENORMOUS and diverse this country is, and I actually suspect it’s the enormity of it all that leads to the whole idea of the (unattainable) “American Dream.” The entire Westward movement and expansionism is goal-setting to the extreme — it’s like the need for BIGGER and BETTER and MORE is embedded in this country’s DNA, and we’re all trying to apply that attitude to our individual lives, too. It just never ends. I’m getting a little rambly and off-topic here, but you get what I’m saying. 😉

  • Reply Jenny June 11, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Hi Anna,

    I love this and totally relate. I’ve been at my same job for 12 years now. While I am not sure I love it as much as you love yours, I do appreciate a lot of the perks I get from it. Proximity to my home, great hours, seniority, good pay, and some wonderful and quirky long term co-workers. Every year when it is time for my evaluation I always leave the “future goals” section blank. When my director asks why, I always have the same answer “if I had any goals do you think I would still be in this job?”
    And I couldn’t agree more, it is not a bad thing at all to be ok with where you are in life now. My goals have nothing to do with my workplace anyway. Now getting rid of adult acne, that’s a goal I can really get with!

    Thanks for your blog. I love it!

  • Reply Samm June 11, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    Tell me how to conquer adult acne when you figure that bad boy out. Honestly, never had so much as a pimple my whole life. Here I am, almost 23 and my chin is fucking bananas.


    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 10:21 am

      I’m almost 38, and I can’t say my chin is faring any better. 😉

  • Reply Suzanne June 12, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Meh. Skydiving is pretty great.

  • Reply *karen June 12, 2013 at 1:43 am

    On one hand this post doesn’t resonate with me–I’m not where I want to be doing the job I want to be doing and I do feel it’s important that I figure that out. On the other hand this post really, really resonates with me. Maybe that makes no sense, but it’s true.

    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 10:31 am

      That makes total sense, Karen. It’s an ongoing process — I think we’re all trying to figure that stuff out (even me).

  • Reply Niamh Galea June 12, 2013 at 4:19 am

    Thankyou for (yet another) beautiful post Anna!
    As a 17 year old, completring my last year of school, everything at the moment seems to be focused on “The Future” and where I am heading with my life. It’s gotten to the point now where I do have some sort of life goal list in my head so I can vomit it out the countless times I’m asked about “my future ambitions”!! What I’m trying to say is this: I totally get the need to live in the moment, focus on the little things and take life one step at a time. How can we ever be happy if we don’t look at what we have NOW and say yay!!!!
    keep up your ultimate brilliance!!

  • Reply Catarina Dória June 12, 2013 at 4:56 am

    What an inspiring post! I can totally relate and it’s so nice to see I’m not alone. I did everything “right”, everything goal oriented people do. Had great grades in high school to be able to go to a good university. Studied hard for 6 years and got a job right after. And then realised that putting parts of my life on hold to be able to achieve the bigger goal – meaning a successful carrier – just wasn’t for me. It scared the hell out of me, to be honest. So I quit my job, found a man than sees life the way I do, moved to another country and now I spend my days peacefully doing what I love most and learning about what I love most. My to-do list includes to be happy and somehow creative everyday (along with doing the dishes)… and at least for now it’s working. I don’ t know what I’ll be doing in the future, but I’m perfectly ok with taking my time to figure it out and enjoying all the little things in the meanwhile. One thing is sure though, I’ll never be able to be slave of a job. It’s a life choice that sometimes it’s difficult to explain to others but it’s what works for me.
    Cheers to all the underachievers out there, we may not rule the world but we’ll definitely enjoy it 🙂

  • Reply rachael June 12, 2013 at 5:05 am

    I’ve always been someone who was looking forward to accomplishing something, moving onto the next step of things. Then i moved to a new country. There’s soooooooooooooo much to do to adapt, both as a legal resident and person in society, that goals are just too much to deal with anymore. It kinda bums me out sometimes, but life is so overwhelming when you start all over again that you kind of HAVE to accept that you won’t be able to accomplish a ton. I have a totally different life than i did before, and i am fine with it about 95% of the time. Sometimes it’s nice to relax and do what you want instead of constantly planning and stressing about stuff.

  • Reply Sally June 12, 2013 at 6:31 am

    Good on you, Anna. We are all different and fall somewhere along this spectrum. I think contentment would appear on most people’s life lists if they are inclined to make one, and it sounds like you have achieved that without even writing it down!

  • Reply Elle June 12, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Not a long term goal setter either – when I think too far out in the future it gives me a lot of anxiety so I just don’t go there.

    A while ago I read this article from Zen Habits on how not setting goals is actually a good thing: and it really helped me to stop feeling bad that I have no idea what my life will be like in 5 years or whatever.

  • Reply raquel June 12, 2013 at 10:17 am

    what a beautiful, well written honest post.

    I understand you completely and I actually I think that more people than you think will relate to your thoughts, because what you have expressed isn´t what we are used to hearing. We are driven to believe that wanting a bigger house, or a different job, is what we should aspire to, and if you don´t…well it´s like you ought to be some kind of loser, like you said. .:)
    I know I am not ambitious, like careerwise or money or anything like that, (I used to think that it wasn´t right to not feel the drive to constantly need and want more). But now I have totally understood that that is just not me. My goal is to make the most of my days and enjoy what is important for me, which for me is my family and my home. and I feel so happy when I, for example, discover an incredible film that really moves me, or, I don´t know, go hunting pretty stones with my children… or simple things like that. No skydiving for me either!

    Bye Anna,


  • Reply Helena June 12, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I completely relate with what you’re writing and it’s good to know we’re not alone 🙂

  • Reply sulu-design June 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Ha! Didn’t resonate with mot people, huh? You got me on this one, too.
    I left NYC 6 years ago because I was pretty unhappy doing what I was doing for work and living how I was living. I left a secure job that I didn’t enjoy and moved with my husband to Portland where we had no job prospects. We needed a shake up, and we wanted to live life differently. We now both work in retail and, like you, have been promoted several times. But moving up in our companies certainly hasn’t been the goal, just the by-product of hard work. For a long time after moving here I was really bothered by my lack of career goals, and I think several friends and family members were confused by our decision to toss professional achievements and ladder-climbing aside. I felt like leaving the big east coast city for this slow-paced west coast town had sucked the ambition out of me. But I’ve come to realize that it was never naturally there. At least not where a job is concerned.
    I can’t say that I don’t have goals. I have two. I want to be an ethical, decent person. And I want to live towards happiness. I often envision myself as an old lady on my deathbed (fun, huh?). I don’t imagine my old lady self will be thinking, “I wish I’d been more powerful, I wish I’d made more money, I wish I’d be head of this or owner of that…” Instead, I hope I’ll be pretty satisfied that I have loved deeply, been good to others, and enjoyed the things that bring me pleasure on a daily basis.

  • Reply Angela June 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I love this post and I might love the comments even more. I realized a couple years ago that I’m just not ambitious and that’s okay. I want to live a beautiful life and work on being a kinder person and make things that are useful to others. But goals for the sake of goals and succeeding to get some kind of rush? Bleh…no thanks.

    If I believed in past lives (okay, maybe I do a little), I’d say people like us are older souls. Not so interested in conquering the world, just happy to enjoy it.

  • Reply Jennie June 12, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you. This (and all of the comments!) was just what I needed to hear right now.

    After spending my twenties racing through a PhD I wasn’t sure I even wanted, and then spending a few more years miserably teaching college because that was what I was “supposed” to do, I finally took the leap and quit it all, first work to for an agriculture non-profit and then, just this year, to work for myself. I have a 1-year-old, a husband who is also self-employed, a house that needs too much work, no retirement fund, no savings account, no college fund for the babe… and just yesterday, I started to panic.

    I come from a family of goal setters and life-listers, and sometimes I just need to be reminded that living a simpler life–one that focuses on the good things (family, friends, personal satisfaction) and on the small things (a good cup of coffee, bare feet on warm flagstone, early morning snuggles…)–is just as meaningful as the one I was anxiously trying to catch and always missing.

  • Reply katrina June 12, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    oh anna. this totally resonates with me and it’s just what i needed to hear. THANK YOU.

  • Reply Shannon June 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Wow, I couldn’t agree more. I recently came to a huge conclusion that I was essentially “saving” a bunch things that I wanted to do for when I had accomplished my bigger (and therefore more “important”) goals. The ridiculousness of this hit me in the face after a total burnout, and I’ve been spending the past few months just enjoying myself and my life for once. It’s like I had become so distracted with what could be that I had forgotten what is.

  • Reply Jen June 12, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I love this! I just realized that the longest list of Things I’d Like to Accomplish are places I’d like to travel, not stuff I need to buy, levels of professionalism I’d like to reach, or anything like that. I am someone who takes a lot of pleasure in the mundane. When my daughter was, I’m not even kidding, 8 years old or so, she randomly asked me and my husband, “What if I just want to be a bartender?” and my husband (bless him, because he was NOT raised in an environment which would cause him to say this) said “As long as you’re the best bartender you can be and you’re happy and you can pay your bills, that’s fine!” That about says it.

  • Reply Joanna June 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    As a 24 year old who is trying to find ANY full time job right now, I think it’s pretty amazing that you were able to find a job you have enjoyed from the start at such a young age! We should all be so lucky.

  • Reply Molly June 12, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Really inspiring and thought-provoking; thank you. I have a feeling this is going to be one of your seminal posts, like “I’m OK” and Fauxdenza (ok maybe that falls into a different category – most ripped-off DIY craze?). It comes at a time when I needed to hear it too – – when SO many other bloggers right now have such big news to share. Because of all these bookdeals! cross-country moves! big new houses! pregnancies! etc, I’ve been second-guessing lately whether I have big enough goals set in my simple little goat-petting life. Actually, there’s a goal that suits me: pet more goats.

  • Reply Josephine June 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Can I get an Amen?
    It was delightful to read this, thank you Anna!
    I’m also a book designer, have been for six years and have no desire to move on. My boss has been in her position for almost 30 years! Maybe it’s something about the job???
    I don’t have lofty life goals either, I just want to know that I raised my children to the best of my ability, didn’t neglect my marriage and was a good friend to others at the end of the day/week/year.
    I hold nothing against those who are decidedly goal-focused, but I’m just not one of them.

  • Reply Fritz June 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    I don’t know what you are talking about regarding goals my only goal is wake up tomorrow alive

    I stop by here for the Vegan recipes so I thought I would pass this along

    I have recently found a few great ones at Thug Kitchen, if the cusswords don’t bother you it is very good

  • Reply Heather June 13, 2013 at 12:15 am

    I made a life list once (at age twelve, I think). The only thing on it that I remember was “make a patchwork quilt”–which (yeah for me!) I have done. I too much prefer to-do lists–though I don’t like to feel obligated to stick to those either.

    LIke an earlier commenter, Amy, I was very goal-oriented in my teens and early twenties, but I just couldn’t keep it up after college when I didn’t have have a clear, amazing career plan. And I had a bit of a meltdown on my 24th birthday (more than a bit, really) because I wasn’t achieving enough anymore, and I was all of 24 (!) and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I’m 35 now and I have come to terms with that (and I figure I had my mid-life crisis WAY early; so that’s done). Now my big goals are to create things and be a decent person and good parent, both of which are big jobs.

    Thanks for the great post, Anna.

  • Reply Susana June 13, 2013 at 5:45 am

    I definitely understand what you are talking about and I totally agree. Cheers from Portugal! 🙂

  • Reply Steph June 13, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I adore your blog, though I’ve never commented, because… well, I guess I’m just a selfish taker.
    The “conquer adult acne” bit?
    Spironolactone changed my life. It’s a miracle. Nothing else ever worked. I’ve been on it for four years, and if I ever skip a few, I go right back to breaking out. I tried pretty much everything else in the world, including tetracycline, which was horrible, but spironolactone is amazing, has no side effects (for me at least), and literally changed my life (because not wanting to stay home to hide my skin was kind of a big deal).
    Just thought I’d throw that out there.

  • Reply mona June 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    THANK YOU!! Great post and so true. It’s refreshing to see you, at your age being old fashioned (yet oh so modern – your decor, which I LOVE). I live in an apartment and everyone’s always asking me when I’m going to get a condo/house. I adore my apartment and the area I live in – 10 years. I have extra spending money because I don’t have a mortgage/condo fees. I agree with your philosophy wholeheartedly!

  • Reply Patricio June 13, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I couldn’t control adult acne until I completely abandoned alcohol and coffee.

  • Reply kelsie June 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I don’t have time to read all of the other comments, but I think I’m about to say the same as nearly all of them. Thank you!

    I am not a goal-setter. List-maker, for sure.
    My boyfriend is not a list-maker, but definitely a goal-setter.

    He can never seem to understand why I don’t strive to be in management at work. Why I am happy actually DOING the work, and not telling other people to do the work.
    I love it. And, especially now, having just taken a different fork in the road in my career, I’m absolutely REVELING in just being and doing and taking it all in.
    I don’t need to care about where I’ll be 5 years from now, because I’m busy enjoying right now!

    So good to know there are others the same.

  • Reply DawnMarie June 13, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    “Are you having babies?”
    “Are you going to go back to school for another degree?”
    “Are you working a million hours a week to work your way up the corporate ladder?”
    Nope to all. And these are questions I get all the time. It amazes me how people think I am not driven about things or lead some boring existence because I am not living the life they all see as ideal. I volunteer at an animal shelter, I work full time, I work out, I like to do home projects, I like to travel. I live a damn good life. I work hard and play hard but it doesn’t have to mean management titles and triathlons. Funny thing is, I seem happier than all the people caught up in the rat race of life goals and impressing people with accomplishments. That is the beauty of my 30’s. I stopped caring what everyone else wanted and deemed as successful. Your post speaks to me. Maybe we are not the majority out there but I sure as hell think we are doing something right. One goal I should have is to lose 10 pounds. And maybe, just maybe I will do that. But again it won’t be on this Cross Fit bandwagon everyone is on. Nope. That would be too mainstream for me.

  • Reply benedicte June 13, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    A.M.E.N !!!
    You made my day.

  • Reply Anna June 13, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    This is so well written and easy to read! I enjoyed your perspective.

  • Reply Sera June 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I’m right there with you. Sometimes I think my inability to set goals is the culprit for my not knowing what I want to do for the rest of my life (I’m turning 37 in a week). But actually, I think it’s the reverse. Maybe if I knew I’d be able to set some goals?
    Anyway, let me add to the many who totally loved this post. Thank you so much for your honesty.
    Also, redoing an old house has to count for something. My husband and I are dong that too.

  • Reply Dana June 14, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    I feel the exact same way! I dated someone who felt that I needed a “5 year goal”. My mind was a blank. 5 years??? There’s a reason we’re not together now. I like fixing up my house and adding to my ever growing yard. I’m content with now and the things I want to accomplish by the end of this weekend. Planning far into the future is too stressful for me! And by the way, my husband has been working for the college he graduated from for the last 15 years so there are a few people in our age group that are content!

  • Reply TC June 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you for writing this. It is so comforting to know I am not alone in these feelings. The biggest source of discontent in my life is feeling like there is something MORE I should be doing/acheiving. Am I leaning in enough?!?! Etc. But the truth is that I have a good life and actively try to be a decent person who is not hurting more than I am helping and that should be enough.

  • Reply Kristan June 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm

    Lady, get out of my head. I should print this out for my annual review. Or for the weekly inquiries at work about moving up. Really, appreciate the vote of confidence, but I’m quite satisfied with where I am and what I do. Now if I could come up with a clever answer to the “so what’s new with you?”

  • Reply Karlie June 14, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    I think this resonates with a lot more people than you would think- thanks for voicing our thoughts! Life lists ARE exhausting! Sometimes I look around and see what other people are doing and panic because apparently “THAT” (skydiving, planning exotic vacations, seeing every concert imaginable, ETC. ) is the “only way” to really be happy in life. I found a lot of relief in finally realizing that I don’t have to do “THAT” to be happy. Happiness and joy is all around us! It’s in the simple things that often just happen, as you said. Thumbs up 🙂

  • Reply Viktoriya C. June 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    You know, I started following your blog for your awesome home-decorating style and adorable chihuahua, but the more you share your soul with the worldworld, the more I realize that after 3 years, your blog every day because we see the world the same way.

  • Reply Viktoriya C. June 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    you know I started following your blog for your awesome home decorating style and adorable chihuahua, but the more you share your soul with the world, the more I realize that after 3 years I read your blog every day because we see the world the same way 🙂

  • Reply Rose S. June 15, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    LOVED this article. Thank you. Even though I have never been a person who wanted a big career and my family placed no importance on being successful in the typical sense (money!), it’s amazing how the pressure to have all the tenets of traditional success. I’m 21, newly married, have no long time goals besides having children, and have ‘just a job’…and it really worries me sometime that I don’t know exactly what I want out of my life and this article made me feel a LOT better. I feel like hugging you!

    Side note: how do you like your job and would you recommend it for other people? I’m very artistic and technically talented and I’ve thought about book cover design as a dream job…any input from an insider would be appreciated…especially with regards to the waning physical book industry.

  • Reply Rose June 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Anna! As someone has been forced due to economics to look for work way more than I’ve wanted to the past 10 years, who has not been able to make a living doing what I really want, and also has a defective brain I really relate to this post.

    Realizing that I won’t be able to use my degree probably ever, that I really hate the idea of managing others (and that that fact makes me less valuable to almost all employers), that my job is never going to be something that can ‘make’ me happy is something I’m still trying to do. Thank you for writing this. Helps me give myself a little breathing room.

    I think you are really on to something with just relaxing and trying to enjoy the things you enjoy, without forcing it. I am happy for you that you have that kind of connection with your job. And, really, we’re all still reading because we think you do amazing things! [I mean, I think that’s why other people are here reading, too] We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t find you to be an awesome writer/artist/designer/human.

  • Reply Sophie June 17, 2013 at 5:46 am

    thank you for this post. For a couple of years now I have realised my “life goal” was to be happy. Not in the idealized constant-smiling-and-thrilling-unrealistic-advertising sort of happy, but more of the fulfilling-coherent-dealing with ups and downs sort of happy. That includes being a decent person, too, and love and thankfullness for people around you mostly, things also even if in the whole they are less important. I’m still in art school, I do not know what will happen of me when I’m done and to be honest, I don’t care to know or plan. We’ll see. I enjoyed reading your post and the comments, and see others can approach life the same way (including the staying away from sky diving part, thank you very much). Just be how you want to be, with or without a list 🙂

  • Reply Elisabet June 17, 2013 at 7:44 am

    So true. As a mother of two little girls I also sometimes feel the pressure of having goals for their lives as well. People look at me funny when I say my 4-year old does not use the computer at home, that we have not yet bought a bike for her, that we are not centering our vacations around things she should learn, like skiing (hey, I never learned myself, my parents preferred hiking to skiing). She likes weeding and watering her plants, she likes playing at home or with her friends, drawing, learning to read, going with us to museums and gardens. People say that will not give her an advantage in the future. I’m not so sure. I rate being happy and content quite high, and she is already really good at being happy with little things, and to feel satisfaction with a job well done. She doesn’t have to rush around in search of the next thrill like a lot of other kids. She has patience and she likes to take time to try to understand how things work and she can work patiently and finish things she started.

    • donna June 17, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Don’t fret too much about these people’s opinions. My folks emigrated to a new country with two toddlers and while we weren’t exposed to everything as kids (no skiing outside of school-organized ski trips), that didn’t stop us from doing so later in life (I took up snowboarding in my 20s). My folks may not have had a lot of money by today’s Kardashian-sized standards, I don’t recall wanting for anything that was essential to our well-being. We had bikes, and, eventually, we got a computer (can you even call a Commodore 64 that nowadays? lol).

    • Elisabet June 19, 2013 at 2:34 am

      🙂 Well, I don’t fret, but I am amazed that so many parents do things with their kids not because they or the kids likes it, but for the sake of fitting in or gaining advantage in the future. Or what they think will be an advantage. I don’t understand that, it means others will have to stand back, and besides, we never know what the future will look like.

  • Reply Tiina June 17, 2013 at 8:18 am

    I have been reading and admiring your blog for ages, but have never commented until now. What you wrote is so beautiful, true and rare. Also, I think humans, as individuals, nations and race, might be more peaceful, less destructive (against nature and other humans/nations/cultures) if they were less goal-driven and took more time to appreciate the life they already have.

  • Reply Ale June 18, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Personally, I decided to relax a looong time ago. I havent set any long-term goals because I think life changes every single day and I change depending not only on myself but on the stimulus I receive from the world.
    But somehow, as i am starting to get old ( I just turned 30, and Im havi the 30yo crisis)I felt like Ive lost a lot of time just enjoying the moment. So now I really do not know if I made a mistake or I should have planned where I wanted to be right now. And since I cannot change what I did, I have been feeling lately that I need to make plans now, so in 10 years I do not feel as frustrated as I sometimes feels today.

  • Reply Eve June 18, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I read this –
    and then strolled over to Door Sixteen and read this post so can I just say a HUGE thank you, to you Anna and all who commented, for making me feel way less shitty about the current state of my life and career and my lack of wildly ambitious goals. I moved 3000 miles a few months ago because of my partner’s work and I have struggled to find any steady work in our new city, it’s been hard, and the constant questions from everywhere about my goals, what’s happening to my career, why I’m not just having a baby if I can’t find work, are in turns making me very depressed/defensive/angry. It was so refreshing to read this and think maybe it’s ok to enjoy the things I do have – a fantastic partner, living in a new interesting place, making time to make friends – and to not be in a constant state of crisis over other people’s ideas of what I should be doing.

    • Anna @ D16 June 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      Oh gosh!! I hope no one thinks that this post was intended to be a response the one you linked to — I don’t read that blog, and I certainly don’t think that anything Joy is detailing is wrong or bad or anything negative. (Not that you’re implying as much, Eve, I’m just alarmed by the fact my post came a week after hers, and is pretty much the exact opposite in terms of outlook!)

      I know you get it, though, so I’m probably being paranoid. 😉 At any rate, I really feel for you. I hope that you’re able to figure out what you need to do (or not do) to feel more settled and happy in your new home and with such a huge life change. 3000 miles is a lot, especially when you don’t have something clearly defined waiting for you at the other end of that distance. Good luck to you, really!!

    • Eve June 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

      I don’t think anyone who reads your blog would think you wrote this in response to that post, I hope my comment doesn’t imply that as that’s not how it was meant at all.(*note to self – do not write blog comments when feeling a bit crap and over-emotional*)
      I also think Joy’s post has a lot of very positive and practical advice for anyone who does have a lot of big goals, part of me quite envies those people who have a long term vision for their lives. In many respects your posts are about the same things, fulfillment and happiness. It just seems that the vast majority of writing about those subjects focuses on the career-goal-chasing kind (at least when you’re job-hunting/semi-employed/spending too much time on the internet!) so to read a differing perspective, which acknowledges that there are many ways of being, was refreshing.
      Joy’s post resonated with me a lot with regard to my past, but my life has changed immeasurably in the last year and your post and some of the comments have made me think slightly differently and more positively about my present.

  • Reply jackie June 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    well, the ohjoy post above is kinda why i stopped reading her blog….that and the fact that it quickly bacame all about baby stuff…but i digress 😉

    anna i absolutely loved loved loved your post and reading all the comments. I always felt so strange, like something’s wrong with me when i could never answer the ‘where do you see yourself’ question in my annual reviews at my ad job…usually i’d just make something up. i felt pathetic. i am not ambitious and dont have goals…i’m going to shout it out a window!!! glad to see so many kindred sprits around here 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 9:53 am

      I definitely don’t want to come down on anyone who has a different approach to life — and that includes Joy (who I don’t know, but who I have a lot of friends in common with). I admire people who are able to figure out how to thrive and be happy. What do want to do, though, is speak out for those of us who just don’t operate that way, and who have even found themselves in a lot of distress and upset over feeling like they should be more like the life-listers and goal-setters who tend to by nature be better about expressing what is and isn’t important to them.

      That said, I am so glad that this post (and the comments!!) are here now, and that we kindred spirits are all outing ourselves. It feels pretty good. 🙂

  • Reply Becka June 19, 2013 at 4:01 am

    This makes so much sense to me. I’ve never really thought about if I’m a goal-setter or not (which, probably means I’m not….ha) and the couple of times I’ve tried to make some kind of five year plan I’ve either had no idea what to put on it or put way too much on it and even then it was basically just ‘do some cool things and then some more cool things that make me happy’. At my last teaching job (actually at all of them) I was often asked what type of management role I saw myself in or how many years I wanted to put in in the classroom before moving up to a deputy principal or principal type role and I was always baffled by this. I became a teacher because I wanted to….be a teacher? That’s the role that I chose for myself and while of course it’s great that there are people who want to be leaders in schools, I just wish I wasn’t thought of as a weirdo because I liked doing the job I was qualified and chose to do.

    We’re in a weird point in our lives at the moment, my husband and I moved cities last year to help care for a very ill family member and we’ve found ourselves in an area we probably wouldn’t choose to live in, doing jobs that we probably wouldn’t choose, either. I have never for a moment regretted our decision to move here but now that it is nearing a natural time where we could leave, I feel like I should be setting goals for what’s next. It is definitely a new feeling, being not much of a goal setter but needing to think about big future decisions. I do have dreams, mostly vague ones and I have learnt to be happy with that. I just want to have a comfortable home and lifestyle (small ‘l’ lifestyle!) that allows me to do the things I love, help people and be a good person. So I guess those are my goals for now, however they’ll work out.

    I’m just really thankful that you articulated the way I feel when I didn’t even know it!

  • Reply Snufkin June 19, 2013 at 4:02 am

    To add to the chorus, but man do I identify with what you’ve said here. I’m a Type-A, overachiever personality and the past few years have completely brought home this lesson to me thanks to personal and professional/economic circumstances. Otherwise:

    * I absolutely LOATHE the whole “bucket/life list” trend, especially when it seems less like enjoying the journey or process and more ticking impressive sounding items off of a list. Kind of like people who try to travel to as many countries as possible to claim it for a list/passport stamps without actually spending time in these places. Also my completely cynical mindset usually reads these list and it always seems like some pretty shallow/boring shit, like swimming with dolphins (what? You think those dolphins want to be penned up and forced day in and day out to be treated like circus monkeys for tourists? What about their life lists?).

    * Of course being a smart ass cynical, Type A overachiever personality, I might be looking down my nose at people with these lists because I’ve already been through my “I must do _____ by ________” type activities. Many of which I was completely underwhelmed after building up in my mind as some kind of Spaulding Grey Perfect Moment.

    * Plus being the jerk Type A overachiever that I am, I already know about how Goals only work if they’re SMART, so what metrics am I supposed to use for swimming with dolphins?

    * A lot of these activities seem to be straight out of the Oprah style new age live your best life bullshit playbook. Again as with Swimming With Dolphins, a lot of it seems just superficial and trite as Hell.

  • Reply deb June 19, 2013 at 7:23 am

    have just reread this post and all the updated comments. i love that just one well considered, well articulated sentiment can allow us all such a huge sigh of relief. like that feeling you got when you were a kid and you heard the smiths for the first time and you were like, oh. thank. GOD.

    thanks again, anna. i think this is a post i shall keep coming back to! xd

    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 10:07 am

      HEY! Did you just compare me to Morrissey?! Hahaha. Not really, I know, but I’m going to pretend that’s exactly what you meant. 😉

  • Reply rachael June 19, 2013 at 9:56 am

    “who needs a life list when you’ve got a life”


    I just bought a house recently in a city near where I grew up. I wanted to. It made sense for us for a lot of reasons (that I won’t go into). But outside forces are constantly seeping in, making it seem like I shouldn’t have planted roots so soon, so close to home, etc. because everyone “needs to move away”…from what? I feel like people are always running – like you said, making lists and always looking for the biggest, better, and the next. We need to enjoy the present and be happy with doing what makes us happy — so thank you for helping me feel that it’s okay to not be constantly searching 🙂

  • Reply Ronlyn June 19, 2013 at 10:31 am

    Terrific post, Anna. It’s so wonderful you love your job and enjoy your life. Wishing that for absolutely everyone.

    • Anna @ D16 June 19, 2013 at 10:42 am

      Thank you, Ronlyn, for your part in making my job pretty awesome. 🙂

  • Reply Toni June 19, 2013 at 11:54 am

    What a brilliant post 🙂 I especially loved the comment (you don’t even have to buy a house), as everyone round here seems to look down on people who rent, rather than pay a mortgage, and it annoys me a lot!

    Life goal lists aren’t for me

  • Reply anna June 19, 2013 at 11:56 am

    god! thank you for this post! seriously I was thinking that I was the only person in the whole world that felt this way. I’m so that type of person. I’ve worked at my job for 10 years, straight out of college. There are times when I think I should be doing things like my blogging friends, quitting my day job and just working for myself, but I’m not sure. It’s good to know that it’s okay to just be where you’re at and be okay with that! Anyway, thank you.

  • Reply karen June 19, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    My favorite part of this AMAZING post? “Reading a book you found by chance on a park bench can be every bit as thrilling as going skydiving. It’s OK.”

    There is something beautiful in just being content in the small things, isn’t there?

    I sat down to write a life list awhile back and it just depressed the heck out of me. It was just too much. So instead I wrote down a list of all the wonderful things I’ve done or experienced already & it made me smile again.

    • Laurel June 20, 2013 at 11:52 am


  • Reply tish June 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    I love reading your blog. I was recently in turkey on vacation and they have blocked your blog over there. But now that i am back home, i am catching up on all your posts

  • Reply Alice June 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Right on.

  • Reply Victoria Smith June 19, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    oh anna, thank you for writing this. i think about this all the time – the fact that i have very limited goals, or any at all and i always feel so inadequate. but it’s true – generally, i am so happy with what i do now, that i don’t really need it to be any different. i love my blog, i love writing it and that’s about it. i’d like to do better at it – in that i’d like to take better photographs, or learn a new skill like video to share there, but other than that, nada. zip. nothing. i get asked so often about my future goals and i have no idea what to say, other than: to keep on doing what i’m doing right now. xo

  • Reply Joanna Paterson June 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    what a lovely world this might be if more of us dreamt of being a little bit more decent and a little more kind…here’s to the good company of those of us who live without goals 🙂

  • Reply Maggie Mason June 20, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    My name is literally first in line when you search “life list,” but I agree with you. I have a friend who stresses about whether she should have some sort of plan, I stress about whether I’m too rigid and boxing out serendipity.

    For me, writing stuff down gets it out of my head so I can be more present. I make the list and then it shuts off the voice that wake me up in the middle of the night. It says, “Ooooh! You should spend the night in a bookstore! or “Oh! Don’t forget the article you read about the Sky Lantern Festival in Thailand. SKY LANTERNS ARE PRETTY!” Ugh. Shut up voice, I am tired and I have had a lot of wine.

    Anyway, my life list is an idea collection, not a stone tablet. That said, I seem to attract friends like you. One gets hives at the thought of making plans to the point where she couldn’t handle college because it was too much structure and planning. The other spoke at Camp Mighty about how she doesn’t make lists, she just tries to surround herself with interesting people and then says yes to the stuff that sounds cool.

    Your “be decent” thing made me smile, because I just read Man’s Search for Meaning and Viktor Frankel says that there are only two types of people — decent and not decent. That resonates, because it’s how I find my people. Not based on whether they want to run with the bulls or jump out of a plane, but on whether they’re decent.

    • Anna @ D16 June 20, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Maggie, I’m so glad you commented. I think your name has become synonymous with the term “life list” at this point (whether the widely-accepted purpose of a life list has wound up being what you intended it to be or not), and I really, really did not want this post to come across like an attack on what you’ve done or encouraged others to do in that area.

      For what it’s worth, I have a lot of friends who have written their own life lists, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing…for them. Before all of these comments rolled in, I truly believed that maybe one or two people reading this would agree with me, and the rest would think I’m a boring slacker with no interest in living life. I’m glad to hear that you also “get it,” despite being at the top of the Google ranking for being THE life-lister. 😉

      Thanks for being decent. x

  • Reply lau June 21, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Love this.

  • Reply Theresa Clare June 25, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Thanks, Anna. This post reminded me to appreciate all the good things I have in life right now. Health insurance, real estate, and a great career aren’t any of those things, but I have a home I love, food in my belly and someone who loves me. He’s been teaching me that being content is okay, and here in my late twenties it’s nice to know that it’s okay to be okay. So thanks for the reminder.

    p.s. I love your blog!

  • Reply joanne June 25, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Thank you for this… for putting my feelings into words. I could not have done it so eloquently. I never comment, but love reading this blog. Thanks, Anna!

  • Reply Lucy June 25, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you for this post!

  • Reply Leslie June 26, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    Posts like this is why I love your website. I’m a 40 something government employee (yes, I know I’m an under achieving loser.) I never had a real life plan outside of getting my degree, getting a decent job, hoping to meet a nice guy and get married, moving out of my mother’s house and get my own place, and maybe having children. I was successful in achieving those goals. But am I “where I should be” in my career at my age and length of work? No. I never made management and may never before retiring.

    I marvel at some bloggers that have their carefully planned life list which they confidently post and share with strangers. Many successfully check off many of those items within a short time of making them public. I wonder how can do they do it while working/blogging taking care of families.

    After reading such carefully planned lives, I usually feel bad about myself and think perhaps I should have been more anal about my every move at work and changed jobs more often when I was younger. Maybe I would have been further along at this point. Who knows. And then again, maybe I’m where I’m suppose to be at this time in my life. Well at least my family make me happy. Hopefully I can at least do a good job raising my two boys.

  • Reply Sonchia June 27, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I will be mulling this post over a lot. A lot, lot. I have always considered myself a planner and a perfectionist. But, the more I read and re-read this post maybe I am not. I never really thought about it in the way you have described it. Like you, I am a huge list maker and when I set my mind to doing something (tiling, even with a fever) – it gets done. But I am struggling with work right now as my Board of Directors wants me to set longer term goals and make sweeping plans for the future. And, it is making me beyond uncomfortable. I want to be nimble and grow organically, not have a ten year checklist of things that if I fail to accomplish, then all of the good things I make happen are then overshadowed by what didn’t. Anyway, THANK YOU is the long and short of it. Lots to ponder here – I appreciate your honesty.

  • Reply Girlbehindscissors June 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Glad I found this post!
    I have been feeling…. guilty I suppose…. for not knowing what I want to do or for having specific goals or passions. My bf has a very clear idea of where he wants to be, so does my bother, and it makes me feel a bit lazy!
    But being satisfied with your lot and making the best of what you have is equally as important.

  • Reply Bec June 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Your post is awesome!! Thank you, I have often felt guilty about not being goal driven and I totally agree with your sentiments. Cheers!

  • Reply Kali June 30, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    This. So this. I wish I had these exact words for the past ten years. Listening to my mother, and all other well meaning would be mentors constantly challenging me to make a five year plan, determine a goal career, “paint the life you want to have, not the life you live”. It’s always what’s wrong with me, not that I could be different, or happy with how I’m doing things. Anyway. Thanks, as usual Anna.

  • Reply McConnell June 30, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    We are almost the exact same age, Anna, and I can’t even fathom working at the same place for 15 years…I find that quite amazing! I am on job number 15 or 16, and have lived in three states, so completely opposite end of the spectrum over here.

    I do understand exactly what you are saying in this post. I think one of the struggles of this time of life (early middle-age? Gah!) is to accept the things that you can’t do much about, let go of some pipe dreams and *shoulds* that others have placed in your mind, and begin to accept yourself just as you are- and learn to really…I don’t know…love yourself? Enjoy your own personality and stop the constant striving and comparing? Something like that, something more important than checking off a bucket list.

  • Reply Mosley July 22, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    YES! Yes, yes yes! I have read so many ‘5 year plan’ ‘new years list’ ’27 things to do before I am 27′ posts all extolling the virtues of the life goal and advising me of the wonderful focus and drive it would bring me to follow in the bloggers goal-setting advenutre! And Ive always wondered, ooh I dont do that, I would never be able to accomplish all those goals, certainly not within an alloted time scale, maybe that means Im a bit of a failure as a woman? But NO, Im not a failure, Im NORMAL after all. And no, I dont want to bu a house either. So, thankyoufor confirming that Im a NORMAL person after all.
    Just discovered your blog, Two big thumbs up so far!

  • Reply Amy August 2, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    THANK YOU! Finally, someone said it out loud. I’ve never believed in setting, or even been able to set, goals in life. They drag me down and disappoint me, so I’m happier living without them. This definitely resonated with me.

  • Reply Laura September 24, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Yep. Yes. Yes yes yes.

    I have just started to realize (at 33!) that goals like that just don’t interest me! And I have always, always been made to feel that that was somehow lacking on my part. Especially from well meaning people (in my family, teachers, friends, etc), who have always pushed me to want or strive for ‘more’ in my career. That my relatively small wants or desires were not enough/underselling my talents, underutilizing my intelligence. And all I want, like another poster said, is enough money to pay my bills and save a little and buy pretty house things. (But maybe never even buy a house! GASP!) So when I got put on these ‘life goals’ that other people convinced me I needed to have, I have always, ALWAYS lost interest very quickly. Then I would beat myself up for having no follow through. Oh vicious circle of hell.

    But the ACTUAL reason I wanted to post, sadly (?) was because of the adult acne thing, which I also suffer from. I’ve read your posts before when you touch on that, and do the things you do/take your suggestions to see if they work for me, and I wanted to pass on the miracle of miracles that I’ve found : De La Cruz sulfur ointment It’s like $5 at Walgreens, it’s apparently been around forever, sulfur has been used for millennia for skin issues, has ridiculous comments on Amazon so I tried it. It’s AMAZEBALLS. You just smear it on your face (it’s thick like an ointment) and leave it sit (start with 5 mins then work up) like a mask, then wash it off. It’s drying, without being drying? It clears up my face (and I even occasionally get cystic acne, which is the shittiest of all shitty), and if I’m good about doing it when my face is actually clear IT STAYS CLEAR. I mean, nothing works for everyone, I’m sure, but this stuff? WORTH TRYING FOR 5 TIMES THE PRICE.

  • Reply lizmo September 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks for this Anna. From this post, I get the feeling that we’re like-minded. Having that kind of affirmation from a complete stranger can be a balm sometimes.

    My grandfather was a butcher in a big stockyard for many years. He worked alongside a poet who took the job so he could free his mind. No, they didn’t meet the world’s expectations but my grandfather is the most content man I’ve ever known and the poet was free to do his own work.

  • Reply Rod September 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm


  • Reply Heather Moore October 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Absolutely with you on this. Satisfaction with where you are and what you have is hugely underrated. I find myself occasionally semi-embarrassed about having lived in the same apartment that we bought 13 years ago, because everyone is always upgrading, but at the same time, the idea of living here until I die really appeals to me, because it will confirm what I’ve thought for the last 13 years: this is the best frikken apartment EVER, and we love living here!
    That’s a different kind of Mighty, but a good one for sure.

  • Reply Jan Langford July 6, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Great post. I echo these sentiments. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  • Reply Joy Kuykendall August 15, 2014 at 12:05 am

    “I tend to want to live in the moment when it comes to making plans. I don’t know if what I think I feel like doing today is the same thing I’m going to want to do next week, let alone five years from now! That doesn’t mean I’m incapable of making confident decisions. In fact, I think I’m pretty good at making up my mind to do things when the time comes, and I’m good at following through.”

    I found this blog post by typing into google “I am not a goals person”, because I was hoping that I’m not the only one.
    Thank you for so eloquently describing my struggle. I LOVE to-do lists, and I lose sleep (haha, that is SO much more sad than I ever realized…) figuring out what I have to do and what steps to take to complete my daily tasks. However, while I see myself as capable, motivated, and decisive, I do NOT seem to be “ambitious” in the same way as my peers, since I have no career plan, only interests and skills. I guess I’m sometimes uncomfortable with my own self-awareness without the “life-list” mentality. Anyway, I totally understand what you’re talking about! Thanks!

  • Reply Kel April 1, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I haven’t read all the 187 (and counting) comments on this post (forgive me), but, honestly, a 5 year plan (or 10 year plan) is far beyond the scope of most humans on the planet. Small goals, like “grow more vegetables”, “get chickens” and “don’t be an a£{€hole” are far more relevant to me, and that’s all that matters, right? As a wise man once recommended: don’t compare!

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