Goals / by George Qin

The thing about goals is that making a list of them usually makes you feel better about yourself. It feels like you've done something even though you haven’t, the same way sweating in a sauna makes you feel like you’ve worked out. It's like you've already crossed off #1: Make a list.

And sometimes, if you're really motivated - you'll feel like doing something to work towards those goals. But these motivations usually don't last very long. Of course, there are different types of people, and this doesn't apply to everyone, but it's a common trait amongst those who continually fall short of their goals - myself not being exempt from this.

But I've kept trying to make lists in different ways, for different reasons. I'm very forgetful - so a list helps me keep track of my goals. I'll often get distracted and suddenly it will be the last thing on my mind. Other times, I'll make the lists public - so there's some sort of pseudo-accountability attached to it. That usually doesn’t work either, because external pillars of support don’t really last the distance. I end up needing some sort of intrinsic, almost personality-based motivation to fuel me. So ultimately my goals are my own, and there’s really nobody to blame but myself when I don’t succeed.

But here’s a trick I’ve realised - don’t make a list of goals. Make a list of habits. Things that you need to change about the way you conduct your life. It’s much harder to accomplish goals because as humans, we respond to instructions better than outcomes. It’s easier to tell someone to go for a run after work/school every day than to tell them to be healthier. In the same way - making a list of habits will reinforce your good intentions with clear instructions for day-to-day changes that you can make.

“But goals are usually outcome oriented!” 

How are we supposed to accomplish these goals without the pressure of an outcome hanging over us? That’s where discipline and faith come in. To begin with, you have to believe that the actions you’ve taken, are taking and will take - will result in a successful outcome. Then you need the discipline to follow through with those actions.

“But what if I fail? What if the habits that I’ve formed don’t help me reach my goal?”

Yes, but that’s always a possibility with any goal. Sometimes the world doesn’t want you to win, no matter how hard you try. You can play all your cards right and still lose. That’s not a weakness though - that’s life. And the only thing you can do sometimes is to pick yourself back up, and try again.

“It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you’ve gotta do it every day - that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.” - Bojack Horseman (Season 2)