The End: My Final Article

Photo by Kriss Szkurlatowski

This may come as a bit of a surprise to any of you who have been following my blog for the past year … but today I’m writing my final article.

After this, Encouragement from a Stranger will be abandoned (it will still remain online, but I will no longer be maintaining it – so I’ve shut down the RSS feed, the email list, the contact page, and the comments).

Why the “sudden” decision?

Most of the articles here are, in some way, about improving yourself, achieving goals, and breaking through the barriers to make your life worth something.

But I’ve come to the realisation that this constant obsession with goal achievement and self-improvement is a life of never-ending self-torture. And it can ultimately become paralysing.

So, in the circumstances, I don’t feel it would be right to continue writing here.

Does that embarrass me?

Not really. We all change, whether we aim to or not. I didn’t set out to “achieve” this particular outcome. In fact, if anything, my real plan here was to grow this website into a big resource over time.

But plans are often illusions.

Now I’m here instead, writing my final article.

At least this website has given me the opportunity to document this change, and maybe help others going through similar things. That’s one of the reasons I love writing and blogging so much.

A confession …

I’ve given the whole “goal setting” thing a good try over several decades.

It led me to doing all sorts of interesting things: completing two university degrees, working as a tennis coach, working as a private investigator, working as a lawyer, making short films, producing a comedy television pilot, hosting a comedy show on radio for several years, doing all sorts of writing, developing all sorts of websites, teaching at university, starting my own business, and writing an entire book’s worth of content here over the past 12 months.

But you know what – despite doing all of the above, it’s never been enough.

Now I understand why.

Goals and expectations

It’s okay to have goals. But goals become a problem when they become a substitute for achieving happiness. They become a problem when we tie them to specific expectations about how we’ll feel when we finally “achieve” them. This is where I’ve fallen down.

In many ways, expectations are the root cause of a lot of unhappiness in society. Either we have high expectations of ourselves, of others, or of society as a whole. We expect things to be a certain way. We expect others to treat us in a certain way, or behave according to our values and beliefs.

As a result, these expectations result in many of our most negative, and dangerous, emotions – anger, impatience, intolerance. These emotions lead to some of the most horrendous acts of violence. Think about all the conflict in society, and how most of it is a result of people’s expectations about how others should behave. In fact, I challenge you to name one conflict that doesn’t involve expectations!

So what is this really about?

All of this really comes back to the well-worn cliche: live in the present.

If we’re constantly expecting that the goal(s) we’re aiming for will lead somewhere better than where we are now, we’re in trouble. It’s great to have ambition and an overall direction. But I feel, more than ever, that we need to be flexible and adaptable throughout the journey. Change is about the only thing we can really expect in life.

I’m not saying we should be passive. I’m not saying we should give others the power to determine our paths for us. By all means, we should take ACTION in life. But let’s do so without expectation. Let’s focus on the “why” instead. And, for me, the “why” boils down to my values in life:

  • authenticity
  • concern for others
  • courage
  • creativity
  • friendship
  • happiness
  • health
  • honesty
  • humour
  • integrity

All my day-to-day actions in life are about living those values. So was this blog. These values provide meaning. They provide a direction in life, one that is adaptable to change.

Values are really who you are. They’re the only things that DON’T change.

Dropping hints

Looking back through this website, I realise that I’ve been dropping hints about these sorts of things all along:

“Is Your To-Do List Killing You?” was primarily focused on to-do lists, but it could so easily have been adapted to the broader issue of goal setting and achievements.

“Achieving a Zen-like State” talked about how I was able to find a level of contentment and peace I didn’t think was possible. While it mainly referred to one particular activity (playing a sport), it could have easily been adapted to an entire approach to living.

“Choosing To Be Happy” and “Life Would Be Perfect If Only I Had…” were about not letting external objects and events determine whether we’re happy or not. This could easily have been expanded to include goals and achievements too.

“Do You Really Need To Go To The Next Level?” was about accepting that not everything has to be about “fulfilling your potential”. The best example is this very website. I’ve pulled the plug on it just as it was gathering momentum and attention. I’ve exercised “The Art of Non-Finishing”.

“Don’t Underestimate the Side-Benefits” was about realising that the greatest rewards are often the ones we least expect. While pulling the plug on this website will mean I failed in my overall goal of building a HUGE blog, the lessons I’ve learned along the way have been well worth it. I’ve also realised that I’ve had an impact on people, even if only in a small way.

A farewell

So, having said all of that, this will be the last article you’ll see from me here at Encouragement from a Stranger.

This particular journey has finished for me. This blog is now complete. It may not have become the huge resource I originally aimed for, but there is still an entire book’s worth of content in the archives. It will continue to serve as encouragement for anyone who is looking for it.

Thank you to ALL of you for your support, encouragement, emails, and comments throughout the last year. Hopefully we’ve all helped each other in some way on this journey called “life”. Now let’s go out there and LIVE IT, without expectation.

Signing off,

Adam Wozniak

UPDATE: My journey has now led to me leaving Australia to travel the world. Follow my photographic journey at www.WozzingWithWoz.com

About Adam Wozniak

Adam Wozniak is the founder and writer of Encouragement from a Stranger. He believes in the importance of encouraging people to think, question things, and live life on their own terms. Or something like that... – www.AdamWozniak.com

Comments

  1. Gary says:

    Good for you! I know the overwhelming feeling you write about. Sometimes it’s best to just live and not over analyze and force life into patterns. Best of luck!

  2. Adam Wozniak says:

    Thanks, Gary! :)

    > Sometimes it’s best to just live and not over analyze and force life into patterns.

    Agreed. Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  3. Rosalie O'Connor says:

    Hi Adam, I will miss this blog.

    Sometimes I think the pressure (and set up for failure) with goals is that ‘big’ goals are aimed for. I thinks that goals are useful – but only if they are manageable/achievable. It’s the little goals that get me out of bed and keep me breathing – the goal to catch up with my parents, to write 250 words of my PhD (although that goal is getting less and less important), to listen to a new – or old – CD, to do the dishes, to watch my nephew play soccer, to feed and talk to the cat (yeah, I know, I am in danger of becoming a ‘crazy cat lady’ but what the hell is wrong with that?) to finish the book I am reading, etc….

    I gave up a long time ago the goal of ‘making my mark’ in a ‘big’ way – who the fxxk am I to even think that I have it in me to make a ‘big difference’ to anyone?. I’d much rather leave my mark in a small way – being a nice person, a good friend, a good aunt, a good daughter, an effective/encouraging tutor/teacher etc. The older I get the more important the small things in life are to me. Me living life on my terms (as your ‘About Adam W’ suggests).

    Your blog has been interesting and very thought provoking – well done. I look forward to watching this next phase of your life develop – and to further challenges to my thinking that you will probably generate!

    • Adam Wozniak says:

      Hi Rosalie,

      Thanks for all your comments and feedback on this blog throughout the last 12 months. I’ve always enjoyed it.

      > It’s the little goals that get me out of bed and keep me breathing – the goal to catch up with my parents, to write
      > 250 words of my PhD (although that goal is getting less and less important), to listen to a new – or old – CD, to > do the dishes, to watch my nephew play soccer, to feed and talk to the cat (yeah, I know, I am in danger of
      > becoming a ‘crazy cat lady’ but what the hell is wrong with that?) to finish the book I am reading, etc….

      I think we’re on the same page on this one, just that we are each defining “goals” a different way. To me, what you list aren’t “goals” (at least, not the ones I envision). They’re almost like instinctual actions. You’re doing them because you want to, and you don’t have to think much about it. Eg. I doubt you’re setting a plan when/where/how long you’ll be hanging out with your family, or your cat, or with a good book or CD. You’re just doing it. I wouldn’t call that a goal.

      > I gave up a long time ago the goal of ‘making my mark’ in a ‘big’ way – who the fxxk am I to even think that I
      > have it in me to make a ‘big difference’ to anyone?. I’d much rather leave my mark in a small way – being a
      > nice person, a good friend, a good aunt, a good daughter, an effective/encouraging tutor/teacher etc. The older
      > I get the more important the small things in life are to me.

      That’s great. I love that. And you’re right.

      > Your blog has been interesting and very thought provoking – well done. I look forward to watching this next
      > phase of your life develop – and to further challenges to my thinking that you will probably generate!

      Haha, thanks, Rosalie. It’s been a fun ride so far. :)

  4. Cristina Ansbjerg says:

    Hi Adam,

    I learnt about your blog through ViperChill forum and now I see I am late for the party.

    I want to congratulate you for your decision of enjoying life in a different way.

    I have a totally different point of view though. Mine is more like what Rosalie described just above. It’s not living without goals. It’s changing your goals.

    Good luck Adam,

    Cristina

  5. Carolyn King says:

    Well I’ve enjoyed your inspirational posts and occasional rantings Adam. Personally I think it’s about living your life in a way that lets you have a say in what happens, rather than feeling helpless and watching life go by without you.

    So you could choose to set goals, or follow dreams. Or you may be happy to sit back and let the chaos effect take you in unpredictable directions – but even then, those directions will be shaped by your attitude to life and the environment you create for things to happen.

    Good luck with whatever you choose to make happen…

    • Adam Wozniak says:

      Thanks, Carolyn. I’ve enjoyed your comments on this blog throughout the last 12 months too. :)

      > Personally I think it’s about living your life in a way that lets you have a say in what happens, rather than feeling
      > helpless and watching life go by without you.

      I agree with that. I’m not trying to suggest living “passively” by any means (not personally, anyway). I’m still all for doing stuff, just not doing them with specific expectations of outcomes.

  6. Lisa says:

    Fascinating. There are insightful statements running through your post and the comments. They show that you’ve had an impact on people. That’s a huge achievement. I’m interested to see what impact your new approach will have.