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How do I drive myself when the goals don’t exist?

Community Member

People say “have goals to strive for” or “work towards your dreams”, but…what do I do when the dreams are impossible, or when I have no idea what they look like?

Right now, my Frankenstein of a goal is to “get better”; what that means or even looks like, I don’t even know. I have two hazy ideas on how to get about it, but both have massive hurdles towards striving to them.

1) To address the house: My mum passed away 1.5yrs ago, leaving me (27m) with the family home (single parent, only child). This place crushes me emotionally - I’ve only very recently been able to so much as touch mum’s stuff, let alone consider removing it from the house (donate, dispose, etc.). I live here alone, too, so that makes it feel doubly harder: I’m isolated in what feels like a mausoleum. My main issue with pursuing this goal is that…I don’t know what/where to go after? Say I rent it out…I have nowhere I want to live (past dreams say the US - not feasible right now due to past relationships, friends say Melbourne, but…that’s their dream, not mine).

2) To take care of myself: For many years I haven’t taken care of myself - I’ve been lazy and slovenly, no real job prospects or hobbies or anything that really made me stand out. There are (likely) many reasons why I didn’t, but probably the biggest one was that I didn’t have a reason to try. I felt I was okay in my little comfort bubble. Recently, an ex I still have strong feelings for (“love” isn’t the right word, but it’s a short one) moved in with his partner of about 3 years. This…pretty much popped my bubble: it made me realise that I still felt that strongly for him, that I still wanted that dream life, and all the rest. So, I’ve been trying to take care of myself (trying new hobbies a bit, exercising, watching what I eat, sticking to a schedule, trying to get work, etc.) but…every now-and-then it hits me: “This won’t result in being in a relationship with Him”. It just…stops me in my tracks: he’s happy, and confidently so - no matter how fit I get, nor how prodigious I get with any/any number of hobbies…he’s gone. I don’t want someone else; I love(d) him.

Right now, the part of me that needs a reason/goal is using something like “If you get yourself and your life together, you’ll be able to live with him/you’ll be in the best possible position to meet him”. It’s unhealthy, and it’s impossible…but it’s all I have left. What do I do? Anything else just feels like it’s either a distraction or a waste of precious time.

3 Replies 3

Community Champion
Community Champion

Welcome to the forums and thanks for making your first post. I find your thoughts very clear and relatable.

Goals can feel huge and overwhelming so sometimes breaking them down into a very small manageable may help.

You have identified two parts of your life you want to do something about.

The house. You are grieving for your mum and faced with organising her items.
i have done this with my parents and it is exhausting and emotional.

instead of looking at the whole house, or even a room, could you try doing a small box or drawer at a time and maybe take 15 mins . If you are too tired after thst tine stop if nit keep going.

Taking care of yourself. By writing this post you are taking care of yourself by looking at your life in detail.

i have already written a long reply and will write more later. Again I would look at one part of taking care of the small picture not the whole picture.Are you eating healthy food , do you exercise regularly.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Dean

I feel for you so much as you face so many challenges. It's brutal how certain losses can leave us twisting in the wind without direction. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship or the loss of the ability to 'freestyle' it through life, sometimes the repeating mantra for life becomes 'I don't know were to go from here'.

Reading a fascinating book at the moment called 'Atomic habits', by James Clear. He speaks about the significance of not necessarily setting major goals when it comes to changing or establishing direction. It's more about how a change of habits naturally redirects us. A basic example could be...

Just say we're in the habit of 1) waking up in the morning and getting out of bed straight away, after 2) stretching just once before 3) going to the toilet. 4) We have a long hot shower, then 5) a cup of coffee precedes us 6) sitting down in front of the tv for 3 hours. That's 6 habits, some good and some not so good. The not so good ones may include getting out of bed straight away, instead of constructively planning the day in our mind while we lay there, only stretching once (instead of establishing a 1 minute stretching routine, so as to wake up fully), the long hot shower putting us back into relaxation mode followed by the sitting for 3 hours part of the routine. All the not so good habits point to us remaining too relaxed to be able to fully function for the day. I should add, if going to the toilet and having a shower are the only manageable things for someone, based on their circumstances, they can still be regarded as achievements.

Changing a morning full of bad habits might lead us to a local cafe, sipping on a coffee while reading a good book while experiencing human interaction. We could say 'I deserve this coffee, time to read this good book and time out because I've worked to achieve all this'. So, the process can trigger positive mental dialogue and a change in physical chemistry. Also our cells vibrate at a faster and higher frequency when more activity's introduced. We're vibing higher.

Dean, I'm a gal who has some terrible habits that don't serve me. Some of them stop me from being my naturally healthy self, stop me from feeling optimism and stop me from developing a positive vision of the future: You know that kind of depressing talk that dictates 'I'm always going to be this way, hopeless'.

If the only goal is to change habits, sometimes this is enough to begin making a difference 🙂

Eagle Ray
Community Member

Hi Dean,

It sounds like you are dealing with two lots of grief in relation to your Mum and former partner. That is really hard and I think grief can do exactly what you describe - it stops you in your tracks.

I can relate in that I went to live with my Mum in what turned out to be the last 11 months of her life. Like you I was surrounded by all her things. It took me at least 6 months before I was able to even take her clothes out of the bag that came home from the hospital after she died. I found things could only be done incrementally, such as washing those clothes one day and taking a few things of hers to the op shop another day. There was a cafe near the op shop so I stopped there for a coffee and something to eat. I did this over the course of what were multiple trips to the op shop. Another day I took her and Dad’s sleeping bags to a homeless shelter along with some shoes and they were glad to have them. But I could only do things gradually over time.

Grief is a process with no rules or set timeframe. Each person goes through it in their own way. So you may not feel able to set bigger goals but that’s completely ok. You don’t even have to think in terms of goals, just go one step at a time.

As for your former partner, I can relate somewhat to this too. I met my soulmate at the age of 18, but due to extenuating circumstances we could not be together. Heartbreak doesn’t even feel strong enough to express how it affected me. I met nice people in the years that followed but the connection wasn’t the same. That feeling of not being able to be with the person can have a paralysing effect in itself and make it feel impossible to move forward, but slowly this loss does release its grip on you over time and you can gradually open to new possibilities.

These reactions are just the mind and body’s way of trying to cope with the grief. It is only natural to have this response when we feel that strongly for someone. The fact you have those feelings show you have the capacity for sensitivity and care towards someone and that is a special quality. What I’m gradually learning to do is to redirect some of that care I can feel towards others back towards myself, realising that I need to nurture myself.

Perhaps you could redirect the idea of goals more towards self-care, asking yourself what do I need today, or what do I need right now? It could be a walk, a coffee, time in nature, to check in with someone just to talk, whatever your inner voice says will help.