A lot of people don't reach their true potential not because they aren't capable of it, but because they keep using their actions to go into the wrong directions. Or, even worse, directions that are sort of like the right direction, but just enough degrees off that they won't ever get there.
We tend to spend a lot of time working towards our goals, but significantly less time thinking about what those goals should be. My personal theory on this is that it feels so good working towards a goal that we don't really care all that much if it's the right one. Short term it doesn't really matter, and our instincts tend to serve the short term.
Think about where you want your life to be in three to five years. Imagine it clearly, so that it feels like you're actually there. How do you spend your time? Who is around you? Where are you? What are your plans for the week?
Some people find this exercise easy, but most don't. It's hard projecting in the future, so take your time with it. If you think about details and they don't fit, rewrite the future. Sometimes just living the fantasy in your mind is enough to realize it's not actually what you want.
Once you have an idea of what it will look like, write it down. Even as you write it down you might change it a little bit. Don't worry about getting it exactly right — the goal is just to have a clearer idea than you had before.
Next, think about how you have been spending your time. Who have you been spending it with? What are your hobbies? What's your work? What do you do in the spare hour or two between obligations?
As you think about these actions, evaluate whether or not they're getting you closer to your imagined future. If they aren't, then ask yourself if you got the future wrong or if you're getting your actions wrong. It could easily be either one. The goal is to create alignment.
It's great to find things you can change, but the best is when you find big patterns. Maybe you imagine that you'll be surrounded by good friends in the future, but you aren't actually doing anything to grow or solidify your social circle. Maybe you see yourself as very wealthy, but you're currently spending all that you earn. Maybe you're eating junk food, but in the future you're the very image of fitness.
Use this exercise to change. Search for the biggest differences between the present and your image of the future, and create a habit to shrink that difference. Don't change everything all at once, just pick one or maybe two things. Better to lock in the change than feel like you're changing for a week and then go back to your old habits.
Redo the exercise every few months. Sometimes your priorities change, other times your habits drift. Or sometimes nothing has changed and it feels good to know that you're still on track. This process starts you in the correct general direction and continues to nudge you towards your best future as you go.
Photo is a weird sculpture we saw in a building in Japan
I've just gone through a goal-setting exercise. I thought it was a pretty hard thing to do as frankly, no one teaches you how to set life goals. I found this to be a pretty useful technique so thanks for sharing.
I recently did a very similar exercise, after failing due to a lack of alignment with what I wanted and what I realized I was becoming. I think this is an exercise critical to do as a senior ugh High School or College.
Just getting my thoughts down showed me what I valued and what I thought I did. I think the largest realization I had was how freeing responsibility was. It's a bit counterintuitive, but having clarity of the future means I could see the road and read the road signs. This allowed me to put up guard rails where needed and floor it where it counts.
This was a great reminder, and exercise I'm going to do again. Sorry for the horrible car metaphors :)
In my last post i talked about what NOW is the right time for. The implication, of course, is that there are certain periods of time where you can actually take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Let's call that your Opportunity Window. In the Standard American Lifestyle, that window is narrow. Really narrow. It probably starts somewhere at the end of senior year in college and ends a few months afterwards.
There are small blips of opportunity afterwards, too. Getting fired creates a window. Some sort of windfall income might create a window.
That sucks. Someone with a Standard American Life probably has no more than a year of Opportunity Window in their lifetime. It's only during those times that they can start a new business, leave their lives behind and try something new and exciting, or just make a drastic change.
Jason Shen has achieved tremendous success in athletics, technology entrepreneurship, writing, and living an outstanding life. To promote his recent GiveGetWin deal on The Science of Willpower, he sat down to tell us how he started learning about willpower, the state of what's known scientifically about how willpower and the brain work, and how you can start improving your life right away by implementing a tiny habit, thinking and systems, and using some powerful thinking tools. Enjoy:
Developing Willpower by Jason Shen, as told to Sebastian Marshall
Willpower has been an undercurrent in my entire life. In gymnastics, you have to use your willpower to overcome your fear of an activity and go for the skill you want, to get over the fear, to push yourself to finish your conditioning and strength training a part of you doesn't want to…
It didn't come automatically to me. When I was a student, I wasn't automatically self-disciplined. There were actions I knew were useful, like doing my homework in one session without getting distracted, or not throwing clothing on my apartment floor. But I wouldn't always do them, and I didn't know why.
I started to learn those answers during a student initiative course at Stanford called The Psychology of Personal Change. That's when I first started reading academic papers on the topic. In academia, willpower and self-discipline is often called "self-regulation," and in 2009 I started to get really serious about it from an academic perspective -- and saw gains from it in my personal life.