Lately, I've been experimenting with an alternative to setting clear goals and trying to achieve them. Instead, I thought about what I want to achieve, and then worked backwards to understand what are the daily habits that I need to cultivate in order to ensure that I can achieve this.
The key step I took was to project myself forwards twenty years, and ask myself what I would have wished that I had done in the preceding twenty years. Essentially, my fictional future self is giving advice to my current, younger self.
And so, I decided to focus on some very simple habits that I can developer further without thinking too much about the end goals. I follow the process instead of worrying about the actual results (which take care of themselves).
I track six daily habits:
- Eat Healthy
- Work Deeply
I don't have any specific goal attached to these habits, but I am just trying to ensure that become as ingrained in my daily life as brushing my teeth, so I can ensure that I do these six tasks each day without having to give it too much thought.
I believe (and it is yet to be seen of course!) that just doing these things each and everyday for a few years will bring about a significant amount of positive changes in my life without having to actual consider to deeply what my key goals are.
Of course, I do have some key goals in mind (i.e. a target weight, a particular distance that I want to run within a certain timeframe, the number of books I want to read per year), but I don't obsess over these goals. I cannot actually force my body to lose fat, I can only try my best to take related actions that will lead to this outcome.
And this, as often does, takes us back to the usual discussion of what we can and cannot control. It some ways, it may be better to not have any goals at all in life, but just try to craft great habits that will themselves cultivate "success" across a number of different areas in life.
And you really don't need to be a genius to reverse engineer what habits you need in order to get the results you want. For instance, if you want to become better at chess, you may set you habits to spend one or two hour per day on playing and studying chess, and during those 1-2 hours per day you can focus on the specific strategies that you need to work on to ensure that you can improve to the next level.
Same thing with health. Instead of trying all the latest fads, just setting two simple habits of eating health food in the right quantities and some form of strenuous exercise will do 90% of what you want, and you won't really need to think about it. Most people do the opposite, they'll sweat the details of exactly what macro nutrients they should take or the perfect time to eat their meals, but forgo the larger picture which is that these changes take consistent effort across long periods of time.
This approach is something new to me, but I thought it was worth writing about to make you consider perhaps trying it to see if it is something that suits your mentality.