How I lost my focus
When I was 15 I had a single-minded vision: I wanted to be a journalist.
There were no other options.
I was so focused on this goal that I selected only one preference as my choice of further study when I sat for my final high school exams.
At the time, there were only two colleges which offered a journalism degree – one in Sydney and the other in Bathurst, 200km west of Sydney. The latter one had the more reputable course so that was the one I selected.
The possibility that I wouldn’t be accepted into my first – and only – choice of study simply didn’t enter my thoughts. There was nothing else that I wanted to do; it was my calling.
Now, this determination antagonized my Greek parents who endeavored to convince me that I pursue the more respectable path of being a secretary, followed soon afterwards by marriage, a mortgage and children.
I balked and rebelled.
During my final years of high school, I arranged my own work experience with a suburban newspaper in Sydney where I rewrote media releases and initiated my own news stories.
I still have that first reference I received from the then editor, dated 18/08/1980. In part, he wrote:
“…if she is serious about journalism, it will probably be very difficult to break into, as it is extremely tough and competitive, and to some degree dependent on good contacts.”
If he was trying to discourage me, it didn’t work.
Several sentences later, he mentioned that “she handled these (assignments) with more aplomb than I had expected, and has in fact done quite well with her tasks.”
It pays to read comments in the right context.
I pursued additional work experience during college vacations with a Sydney magazine, a suburban community newsletter and a regional newspaper. I was getting as much hands on experience as I could while studying.
During my final months at college I responded to an advertisement for a cadet journalist position in Goulburn, NSW and as soon as my studies finished, I walked into my first job.
A short-lived career
Two years later I decided to spend a year in Greece. I was fleeing from the clutches of my parents’ insistence that I return to Sydney and “settle down”.
In my parents' absence, my Greek aunts did their best to line me up with a good Greek boy and attempted to convince me to settle down in Greece instead.
To the dismay of all involved, neither ploy worked. There was just too much to see and do in the world.
As I embarked on new adventures overseas, my career goals diminished in importance and were replaced by travel goals.
My earlier, steadfast focus subsequently splintered, radiating outwards to new opportunities, some of which I hadn’t planned or previously considered. They kind of just happened: like going to Japan and teaching English, or working at the Sydney Olympics.
These unexpected detours opened up other possibilities: working in Athens with Japanese inbound tour groups, working as a tour guide in Sydney, returning to Greece for the Athens Olympics.
Had I persisted in that single vision of remaining a journalist for the rest of my life, I may not have noticed all those other options on offer.
By now, I had totally discarded the concept of a “career” and instead, I accommodated jobs around my travels.
Years ago while still in corporate thinking mode, I used to have an Excel spreadsheet outlining my short, medium and long-term plans, including timelines, actions required, and projected completion dates.
Although these plans revolved predominantly around travel, I’d also included further studies and ongoing professional development.
As I ticked off each goal and achievement, it was quickly replaced by another one. And another. Bigger. Better. More…
And while I achieved most of my goals on that ever-increasing list, there were some that just didn’t get a look in. For whatever reason, I didn’t have the time, or inclination, or ability to follow through to completion.
Does that make me a failure? Or perhaps I lacked conviction or motivation? Sometimes I even thought it was just laziness.
No matter how hard I tried, though, a few goals remained out of reach. The more I pursued them, the more elusive they became. I was putting in a lot of effort with zero results.
And I was probably missing out on other possibilities because I was narrowly focused on my spreadsheet goals.
On being goal-less
As a new decade dawned in 2000, another major goal started to take shape: Tibet - my ultimate destination.
I always said that I’d die happy if I made it there.
Please don’t panic! I don’t have a death wish (although I’ve done a few reckless and highly dangerous things in my time– but they occurred long before my pilgrimage to Tibet).
I arrived in Lhasa in May 2007, in time for the Saga Dawa Festival at Mt Kailash.
And as I ticked off that last achievement I realized there wasn’t much else I wanted to do in life - except retire.
I suddenly found myself in the uncomfortable position of being goal-less.
Goals vs intentions
Without warning, or any planning on my part, I’ve lost my focus. I have no more goals. No aspirations. There’s nothing else I want to achieve.
The only lists I now make are things to do and shopping lists, only so I remember to buy toilet paper or lodge my tax return.
So what the heck am I going to do with the rest of my (long) life?
'What if all I need to do is allow the unfolding of my essential nature? What if all I need to do is to become who I really am? What if this is enough?' – The Dance, Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Have you noticed how most of our goals are focused on material things, such as career, clients, KPIs, money, home, children, travel, fitness, a new car and so on?
But how many people focus their intentions on: joy, creativity, peace, harmony, love and compassion? What does it actually mean to live this way?
Since I relocated to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland two-and-a-half years ago, I’ve been telling people that I came here for retirement, but perhaps this needs some clarification: I’ve retired from the corporate world, the 9-5 routine, KPIs and strategic plans.
In the meantime, I’ve been actively involved in community events and have set my intention on doing things I enjoy, such as singing in a community choir, Toastmasters and writing.
There are still many places I want to visit, and there’s that unfinished manuscript sitting on the bookshelf , but does it really matter if I don’t become a number one best selling children’s author? And does it make any difference if I don’t ever make it to World Champion of Public Speaking?
These goals are no longer important, compared to my intentions of living life in joy and peace, and allowing new possibilities to present themselves in their own timing.
Perhaps, I’m finally at peace with myself and am now okay with who I am, rather than what I am.
'Don’t tell me how wonderful things will be… someday.
Show me you can risk being completely at peace,
truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment,
and again in the next and the next and the next…'
- The Dance, Oriah Mountain Dreamer
13/9/2011 12:20:52 am
hari, I enjoyed this one most of all. I think because you reveal more & it is less about "what I've done, and more about "who I am". Superb!
13/9/2011 12:26:51 am
What an amazing life you have led Hari..... Hey did you know I lived in Bathurst (and Wattle Flat!!) in my younger days, and went to boarding school in Orange.... what is that 6 degrees of seperation?
13/9/2011 12:36:57 am
ps I thoroughly enjoyed all the others especially the Kung Fu fighting bunny. Probably because I'm a shrink I enjoyed this one a lot.
13/9/2011 03:09:31 am
I enjoyed this one most of all too Hari. Felt I got to know you a little more whilst still enjoying all your tales of fun and adventure. Have to ask though.....what's a KPI????? Sure I have Oriah Mountain Dreamer in my bookcase somewhere too......need to dig it out and have another read........thanks for reminding me!!!!!
13/9/2011 03:39:05 am
Hi Robyn, our travels through life certainly define who we are and the more we tell our stories, the more we reveal who we really are.
13/9/2011 10:17:27 am
Well done Hari! Congratulation for arriving at that point and thank you for putting things in perspective for me. I have been looking for my goal/direction; thinking that I too must have one! We do need to be reminded of what's really important. It's so true peace of mind, joy, harmony, creativity, love and compassion are priceless and what matters.
13/9/2011 11:23:54 am
Esme, we all eventually arrive at the same point, where we re-evaluate what's really important in our lives. We're all on this journey together.
13/9/2011 06:19:55 pm
14/9/2011 03:01:52 am
Great to hear from you Stephanie! The weekly writing discipline is triggering long-forgotten memories, or new insights into past adventures - it's a great journey and I'm enjoying the process of writing regularly again.
14/9/2011 05:53:32 am
Hi Hari - loved this! It sounds like you're in a great place - a place that many people only ever dream of attaining. I know you'll continue to enjoy the moment - and thank you for sharing so much of yourself xxx
14/9/2011 06:11:52 am
Thanks Heather - I think everyone ends up in this place eventually, although we don't always recognise it, because it's uncomfortable, unfamiliar & scary. We can learn to embrace the opportunities of being in this place & enjoy the freedom it offers!
14/9/2011 07:03:50 am
Loved reading this latest offering Hari as I got to know you a little better. Your life has certainly been a full and entertaining one and good on you for pursuing your dreams...those memories are what will keep you smiling, not those KPIs :)
14/9/2011 07:44:57 am
Pat, thanks for joining me on this blog adventure. Indeed, it's the memories that keep us smiling - and whether we've lived in integrity, with love and compassion towards others, regardless of any KPIs. It's a much more satisfying way to live, isn't it?
15/9/2011 09:58:28 pm
i knew that kid back then!!! you have come a long way as we all have and we'll kept discovering and questioning and doubting. thank you for opening up your soul. you were and are a treasure!
16/9/2011 05:12:56 am
Hi Angie, high school was such a long time ago! It's good to look back and see how far we've actually come and be grateful for all our experiences.
25/9/2011 04:27:30 am
Ditto to all the above comments! You're an amazing person with so many amazing stories, and still so young! My life seems so boring in comparison. I'll now be looking for that book? The Dance Oriah Mt Dreamer?
25/9/2011 06:51:01 am
Sue, I'm sure you've also got great stories to tell - it's a matter of perspective, really. Often it's the small things that trigger such memories.
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Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
© 2023 HARI KOTROTSIOS
I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.