The most important measurement for life improvement is not in goal-tracking, but in ensuring we are progressing towards who we want to be and how we
spend our time.
“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, but we set our goals for the person we are when we set them.
- Jim Coudal, Founder of Field Notes
People often stress the importance of creating goals with measurable outcomes. While this may be useful in some cases such as building a house on schedule, we should be careful applying goals to everything we do.
Goals are often arbitrary.
Goals come and go.
We can get bogged down setting goals that we don't sustain because they start to feel like we're trying to check boxes. Or our ideals change before we reach the goal.
More importantly, the goals we set often have an underlying motivation; a direction we want to move ourselves towards, to which goals can make us lose track of our underlying intention.
It's not going to the gym three days a week that we want - we want to feel and look good.
We can hit our goal and still look and feel like crap.
We can also progress towards our objective by incorporating exercise into our day-to-day and eating well, and there's no specific time when it warrants checking a box and moving on.
When we look at what we truly want, and what is most important to us, we find not a destination we want to reach, but a path we want to be on.
Happiness, peace, strong relationships, a sense of belonging, a sense of freedom, even wealth - these are endless pursuits and have no bounds.
They are only measurable in the context of our past - for when we look back over any given period, it will be clear whether or not we've made progress, and that's ultimately all that's important. They are not goals we can or should check off and move on from.
When you shift from 1st to 2nd, 1st is behind you. Then from 2nd to 3rd, 2nd is behind you.
I approach things continuously, not in stops. I just want to keep going — whatever happens along the way is just what happens.
- Jason Fried, CEO of 37signals
Life contains a lot of variables and everything is ever-evolving.
We should get clear on the general direction we want our life to go in, then frequently assess what steps we can take now to move in that direction.
I don't make New Year's resolutions or pre-defined goals.
The direction I want my life to go hasn't changed much in many years:
- Remain healthy
- Spend time with my wife and kids
- Create and maintain strong relationships
- Have control over how I spend my time
- Do work I enjoy and am proud of
Sometimes certain things are weighted more heavily than others or require more time. I may cycle through projects, and acquire or lose (hopefully not) a friend, but where I want my momentum to go is relatively static.
Yet daily I review my options for what will move the needle the most to maintain the right momentum.
And with that, I'm heading on a hike in the Swiss Alps with my family.