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Habits, Systems, and Goals

I’m taking a step back from the web3 analytics thing that I’ve been working on. The main issue there is that the space is unappealing to me, in a way that is unsustainable. Spending time immersed in those communities, trying to figure out what makes a good web3 community, I’ve become more and more disillusioned with the real value of such a thing beyond digital art. This is fine for those interested in collecting digital art. The metaverse feels like it’s about 10 years too early for me. Let’s talk about my goals for 2022 though, because it was a misguided goal here that led me down this path.

My goal list for 2022 looks quite clean, compared to most of my goal lists of years past. And I have made a lot more progress towards it already than I have most other years. I have less random stuff on there. I know what I want, and it isn’t arbitrary measures of success in various aspects of my life I’m involved in, like it may have been previously. The way I structure it matters. I have 3 main areas: Physical Health, Mental Health, Contributing Value to the World. For the first two, I’ve taken a mission and habit driven approach which has worked wonders. I have specific goals, but below those listed out, and the only thing I’m actual beholden to is completing the specific actionable tasks and habits which I think will drive me towards those goals. I can assess my progress towards those goals regularly and if it’s not working out I can modify those habits rather than feel guilty about not hitting a goal.

For example one of my mental health top level goals is “Be happy and at peace with your mind every day.” This is very vague, more of a mission let’s call it. With this mission I construct specific actionable goals that support the spirit of the mission. I can measure progress through self reported surveys on feelings of happiness, anxiety, or a subjective assessment on my ability to be present in daily activities. And I can find activities which support that mission by doing research online. Go to therapy once a week. Meditate daily. See friends twice a week. etc. These are personalized and have changed a little bit over time based on what works for me. I have other actions as well which help support things like making new friends to enable the “See friends twice a week” goal. These mission goals work really well for me, because they are a true expression of a desire I have. The closer your goals are to your actual interests and desires the more effortless it will be to achieve them.

Unfortunately for my “Contribute Value”, I ended up with a bit of a different situation. There is external pressure to make money and get to a sustainable lifestyle. So I have very strict expected outcomes. This is acceptable and some of my health goals are like that. But unlike my health goals I don’t set up the proper habits to support that. “Launch X number of things” is fine, but that’s kind of still a top level goal. And a misguided one since it isn’t actually aligned to what I want, it’s just an implementation strategy. I’ve stopped too short here. It worked for a while, but when one of the things I launched failed I got demotivated. If you look at a goal list and see an outcome as the thing you “should be doing”, that just leads you to anxiety. There’s a big empty checkbox with the outcome, and every day (except one, if you’re lucky) you haven’t checked it.

My point? Focus on small achievable actions. A bad goal I had: “Invent something new, get a utility patent”. This is great super high level goal to have to inspire your actions, as long as it aligns to what you actually want. But it can’t be what you evaluate yourself against every day. A good goal I have now: Identify a small problem you see around you in the world in your every day life. Write it down. Super easy to accomplish and sets me up to find interesting things to work on. When I go home after writing that one thing down, I’m now inspired to work on something, instead of saying “I need to invent something, let me sit down and focus on that”.

The bottom line, having goals is fine to understand and articulate what you want. Systems and habits are the way to sustainably work towards your goals. Make sure you identify and evaluate yourself against your systems and habits, and course correct as necessary, don’t live “in the goal”.

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