Fewer Better Things No. 73

First Lifestyle, Then Goals

Earlier this morning, sitting in the soft sand on my beach and having my first cup of coffee, watching a few friends surf before going to work. My turn will come later in the day as the high tide turns towards low. Photo: Per Håkansson.

Last weekend we celebrated the end of summer; it marks the beginning of my favorite surf season, the fall. Gone are the tourists and the beach is now ours again. The marine layers have drifted elsewhere and the sun, yes, the sun is still hot and healing.

I’ve been looking forward to this special season since last year, honing my skills in the water and making friends at the lineup. Today surfing feels like second nature; everything from positioning and paddling to popping up and riding.

Earlier this week I caught a wave that didn’t want to break and rode it almost all the way to shore. It was a tremendous feeling, nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. Once back at the lineup everyone just smiled and made the shaka in the air.

It’s been a really long journey to get here and even longer to switch mindset, from mindlessly wanting more of everything to finding peace in the present moment. It has now been 15 years since I left Yahoo!, then an Internet bellwether but today nothing but a memory. A valuable lesson in only following my own bliss.

Back then I was stuck and lost. I just knew what I didn’t want. Even-though I had left the corporate world – as that’s what Yahoo! had become part of from being one of the coolest startups on the planet – I was still on the same linear path, seeking success in social status, material things, and financial wealth.

The long-lost dream I had as a teenager, when I rigged my windsurfer on the west coast of Sweden to ride the cold spring winds, to one day live in a warm place where I could enjoy the ocean every day, felt even more distant and impossible. But that’s why I returned to California 20 years ago, to live close to nature and to myself.

I’m still very driven but no longer ambitious. The difference might be subtle at first but its essential: ambitious is being controlled by external rewards while driven is being obsessed with internal goals. Once I understood that I stopped chasing and started living on my own terms, really giving zero fucks.

It’s not easy but very rewarding. The path is not visible, it needs to be created from nothing but dreams and hard-earned experiences. And finding someone that understands is a waste of time as what’s desirable in my mind might just evoke fear and anxiety in others. The only way forwards is to stay true to myself and my own dreams and let go of any need to explain, justify, or prove their validity.

The past 18-months have been extremely rewarding in creating this lifestyle that I now enjoy every day. The pause that the pandemic created was a gift in digging a little deeper in what matters to me and how I’d like to life my life. The big learning here is to first choose a lifestyle and then choose the goals as it’s the journey that brings the most joy and fulfillment.

Moving forward, I’ve created a three-month plan for things I’d like to achieve this fall:

Financial – I’d like to be able to live off my writing, both as a newsletter writer and author within the areas of self-expansion, mindful technology, and sustainability.

Physical – I’d like to continue to progress as a surfer and waterman, improving my strength, breathing, and flexibility.

Social – I’d like to continue enjoying and creating real-life friendships with people here and stay in contact with a few friends that I cannot see due to the pandemic.

The other areas – intellectual, emotional, mental, and spiritual – are all weaved in there but more subtle than in the past. Writing is of course an intellectual, mental, and emotional practice, even spiritual. As is surfing and being with really good, honest, and dependable people that also prioritize well-being over external wealth.

I share all this without any judgement, only to clarify what I desire for my life and hope that it can be of inspiration to others in following their own bliss.

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Filled with joy,

Per Håkansson

Encinitas, California