My life in 10 years

Goal Setting

In anticipation of all of your New Year’s Resolutions, I thought I would share with you some new ideas on setting goals.

The first example comes from Jeffrey Davis in the Creativity Post. He calls this a radical alternative, but I think his approach makes perfect sense. First, he warns against using a long time horizon for your goals. Not that long term thinking is bad – in fact it is best. But the problem is that long term goals are too easy to forget about or put off for later. And even easier for us to delude ourselves with false progress. Instead, he recommends using vision goals that add meaning instead of milestones. Imagine where you want to be in the long term, and then set a goal for what you can do right now to move yourself towards that vision.

No wonder December can feel so depressing to so many people. On one hand, we take stock of all we did not do that we thought we might during the current year, and on the other hand we face another year and wonder if we can muster a shred of hope to make things different. But what if we have a tool at our disposal that is exponentially more likely to lead to the change we desire?

This idea meshes nicely with the Stoic view of goal setting. In the Stoic philosophy, you should only focus your effort on things you have the power to change. So instead of setting a goal to run a 3-hour marathon, your goal should be to register for the marathon and start running. During the run, you can update your goal accordingly. Or if the marathon is sufficiently in the future, you can set a goal to train for it, including running today. Then tomorrow you can update the training goal once that opportunity arises. This may seem like a cop out, but it isn’t if you take it seriously. You have to be committed to the updating part too.

This also meshes with some of the more advanced thinking in gamification (which I will link to as soon as my book comes out – speaking of goal setting!!). While many people think of gamification as simply adding points, badges, and leaderboards to a system, the devil is in the details. The gamification user interface can focus the user on immediate goals that she has control over and direct them away from those she does not.

Image Credit: o5com

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