· 2 min read

Who are you writing your goals for?

This incredible quote stopped me dead in my tracks just now as I was reading 37signals’ core principles. It’s worth a read if you’re in software development / the startup space.

The reason that most of us are unhappy most of the time is that we set our goals — not for the person we’re going to be when we reach them — we set our goals for the person we are when we set them.

Jim Coudal

Took me a while. Not only because it’s hard to understand from the first pass. ;)

Let me help you understand it deeply, integrate it into your thinking and practically apply it.

Let’s go.

I’ve talked before about the fundamental challenges with setting and chasing goals. Mostly it comes down to understanding this disconnect:

  1. Goals are usually (on purpose) so large that they will induce some kind of identity shift

  2. Goals are usually (on purpose) so exceptional that you can’t really tell what the end state will actually be

  3. Actually it’s not even the end state that matters, but who you become in the process of trying

You don’t have it, so you don’t really know what it is.
You might change while you’re working to achieve it.
In fact, the entire point is that you change while you’re working to achieve it.

That’s where this quote comes in.

We set our goals for who we are today.
But we’re probably pretty stupid in wanting this exact thing.
The person who we become, might not even want to achieve this goal.

”Well, shit.” Right?

In part this is the necessary chaos an uncertainty of life. You’re gonna have to live with it.

But you can still make the most of it. Here’s how.

When setting goals, don’t start with the things you want right now. Instead, start the process with envisioning the person you want to be. Start off as your ideal self. Don’t focus your imagination on this person’s achievements or possessions, but think about how you would feel.

Take some time to get into this state, and define goals based on what this person would want.

Then you can use it to track back to what you can do now.

This process is not perfect.
We can’t avoid the necessary chaos of life.
But it’s slightly better.

So read the quote again, close your email, and spend a few minutes (re)writing your goals.

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