Stoic Letter 15
Here’s how I used to set goals for myself. I looked at what kind of outcome I desired and then set a goal to achieve that thing. When it came to my career, I always looked at how much money I wanted to make.
So my goals looked like this: “I want to make $100K a year.” And when it came to my health, it would be this: “I want to put on 5 pounds of muscle.” That stuff never works. Can you relate to that?
How often have you been frustrated by your own goals? You set goals, things don’t go as you expected, and then you give up. How is that helping? No wonder so many people have a huge aversion to goals. One of my friends once said, “just the thought of setting goals reminds me of those Tony Robbins disciples who walk on fire. Not my thing.”
I actually think Tony is great. But you really don’t need to do fist bumps and hit your chest to get pumped up about life. All of that bro behavior makes me cringe too.
The problem is that we often set bad goals. And when we do that, we actually set ourselves up for failure. No wonder we fail to reach our goals.
I’ve found that you can use Stoicism to reach your goals more effectively. What does that look like? You set goals that are within your control. And instead of looking at outcomes, you look at actions. Let me give you an example.
I still have the ambition to earn more in my career. To me, it’s the sign that you’re doing something well. The more value you create for others, the more you will be rewarded for it. Just because I follow Stoic principles, it doesn’t mean I denounce wealth.
Instead, I focus on the work I need to do that could result in a certain income. If I do mediocre work, spend my evenings watching TV, plan my weekends full of leisure, I know damn straight that my income will not increase.
But if I create value in the form of books, articles, courses, coaching, I know I have more odds of earning more. If I invest my money in real estate and stocks, it’s the same. I focus on the actions. And I do all of that stuff every day. Every day? Yes, I create something every day. I’m also thinking about investing every single day. It’s the only way to do it. Nothing comes for free.
What about health goals? Instead of focusing on how many pounds of muscles I add, I focus on getting at least three strength training workouts a week. And those workouts need to be great. No one ever got stronger by half-assing it.
But I didn’t have this mindset all of my life. In fact, I was more of a “good-enough” person until several years ago. I would set goals and hardly ever followed through. But at some point, I realized that’s not the way I want to live. It’s that simple. No big life-changing event or something dramatic.
How about you? Are you satisfied with your days when you’re in bed every night? If your answer is no, what are you going to do about that?
You can set goals that will help you to change your behavior. Everything is in your hands now. You don’t depend on anyone for the outcomes. Simply focus on what you control and think about the actions you need to take every single day of your life.
The funny thing is that the less you obsess about the outcomes, the easier things will come to you. When you only focus on the process, you know you’re doing it right. It’s just like the illustration at the top. Set a goal, turn your back to it, and start working. Just don’t be surprised to one day go beyond your goal. Just keep rowing, my friend. All the best.