The day has finished. We have spent today thinking of the following question:

Am I achieving the goals that I’ve set for myself?

The dictionary’s definition of a goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.”

Why is it a good idea to set goals?

Goals provide us with a path for attainment. They can be directed towards our personal lives such as how we would like to be with our spouse, or work related goals like wanting to achieve partner of your firm within five years. Elon Musk, for example, is notorious for his preparation and goal setting. The venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson, on a recent episode of the Tim Ferris Show, explained how Musk’s ideas aren’t just ideas, he prepares down to the smallest ingredient what he wants to do and projects out these goals years into the future.

Having goals provides us with direction.

As Seneca reminds us:

“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable.”

It is vital to set a course for what we want and go about achieving it. But how do we go about achieving our goals?

Here are a few:

Checklists/To-Do Lists

A checklist is an easy to use device that brings both satisfaction to your day as well as keep you organized in terms of your time management, workload, and memory.

For me, I use a simple checklist of things that need to get done throughout the day. Some of the tasks outweigh others in importance and those will be done first in the morning to ensure their completion. Less important tasks will be pushed off if need be. Quick and easy tasks will be dropped in throughout the day when I need to switch gears or feel like I need a quick boost of motivation from accomplishing something.

By having a checklist (I recommend physical), you have a clear direction for your day. You can carry tasks into the next day, or next week, erase them if no longer needed, and cross them out once completed. If you create a checklist in a notebook, you can track the weeks and months as they go by and see the amount of progress you have made towards a certain goal which is great for reflecting and strategizing for the future. I recommend getting your hands on a Moleskin notebook or one you feel comfortable with and keep it close by at all times.

Atul Gawande in his book, The Checklist Manifesto, explains how checklists are important to keep us accountable and prevent failure.

By creating checklists, we become project managers to our goals.

Accountability Partners

If you have trouble keeping the goals you set, getting an accountability partner may be helpful. An accountability partner is someone who is going to, as the title states, hold you accountable.

Jen Sincero in her book, You Are a Badass, talks about how she hired a life coach to help hold her accountable for the goals she set for herself. A life coach or accountability partner is a way to keep you on track and call you on the bullshit you try and feed yourself. Set your goals, have your accountability partner, do the work, stay accountable, and achieve your goals. If your accountability partner is going to allow you to slide with your goals, get rid of them. You want someone who is not afraid to push back against you and hold you accountable for the bullshit you’re saying that prevents you from achieving your goals.

Pyramiding Your Goals

Over the years I have experimented with many different ways to break down my goals into smaller, more manageable chunks in order to keep a clear picture of what needs to be done while at the same time never losing sight of the end goal.

I call this Pyramiding.

Pyramiding (1)

From a distance, Pyramiding is broken down into three sections, each representing a separate part of the pyramid. To give a better example of how Pyramiding works, I am going to use the goal of being a Screenwriter as the Main Goal.

We’re going to build our way from the ground up:

FOUNDATIONAL GOALS – These are the bedrock of your goal pyramid, without these goals, you are not going to be able to achieve your Main Goal. These goals would be to write every day, read every week, and analyze four movies a month.

MINI GOALS – These are mini goals you look to achieve throughout the process which will propel you to your main goal. In our example, it would be finish writing your script, getting an agent, and having an actor attach themselves to your script.

MAIN GOAL – This is the top of the pyramid and is the ultimate goal you wish to achieve. For our example, this would be selling your script for a million dollars.

Each layer of the pyramid is broken into small categories which are equally as important to getting to the next level of the pyramid. For example, in Foundational Goals, if you do not writer every day, or analyze movies every month, you are not going to get to Mini Goals which consists of finishing your script and/or getting an agent. Within each goal level you will have multiple categories of things that need to be achieved in order to progress up the pyramid.

Remember, goals are achieved not through one action, but through millions of actions executed correctly consistently. As Marcus reminds himself in Meditations:

“Do every act of your life as if it were your last.”

As we progress through life and create new and bigger goals, we must remember to make sure the goals we are setting are defined and measurable. Saying I want to be successful is not defined enough. What does success mean? How would you define success in this case? Is it once you get somewhere or achieve something? That’s a lot of stumbling around in the dark. Setting a goal of selling five books on the other hand is a proper goal to set. You have defined your goal and it is now measurable – once you have sold five books, you have achieved your goal. Make sure when you set your goals they are defined and measurable.

“The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in so far as it stands ready against the accidental and the unforeseen, and is not apt to fall.”? Marcus Aurelius, Meditations


You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande
Meditations -Marcus Aurelius

Steve Jurvetson on The Tim Ferris Show

How have we grown from this? Did we execute any differently today because of this? Do you feel that you have new tools to accomplish tomorrow?

The Stoic Within

The art of living a virtuous life.

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