Perhaps one of the most important things we can do is to set goals for ourselves. By setting goals, we give ourselves a purpose, have a clear desire and destination, and most importantly, an impetus to work on achieving it. As a gamer, I believe it’s worthwhile to gamify our goals, coming up with rewards for each achievement. Napoleon Hill once said, “a goal is a dream with a deadline”; what dreams could you fulfill if you set them as goals?
We know what we want in life, but most of us don’t come anywhere close to getting what we want. You get lost in the grind, let the monotony of everyday life take over and often feel as if you don’t have the means to achieve. See, the brain is the most powerful and complex computer in the world, and part of the problem is we seem to be hardwired to procrastinate; but it’s not the case. Procrastination is a symptom of bad programming, and can be patched out through a lengthy, but worthwhile process of retraining yourself. It’s said that 21 days makes a habit; continuing with our computer science analogy, that means the installation process for a patch to remove a bug is 21 days. That’s a long time for a people that has culturally become accustomed to instant gratification and immediate results; another bug in the system that is only becoming more and more common.
There are pitfalls to be wary of as well. We all carry a powerful computer with access to the sum of all human knowledge in our pockets; and most people use that power to browse social media and post cat pictures. Others spend their time glued to that same social media to spam political memes of varying veracity or reliability, more interested in verifying their own viewpoints. Worse yet are the deliberate trolls, taking part in the aptly named shitposting. The time we waste glued to these social media platforms, especially if they’re not part of our job, could be better used achieving our goals. It’s not hard to get glued to those platforms; they are specifically designed to capture attention and hold it. There’s a whole industry of social media marketing designed around maximizing the attention of someone that spends their life on Facebook or Twitter. I would not be surprised if the next edition of the DSM has pathological social media use as a codified psychological problem that requires treatment. They operate on the same wavelength as soap operas and reality television, catering to that part of our reward center that enjoys the small, snack-able bites of curated life. The result, of course, is that we as people procrastinate more, achieve less, and then blame the system for our own failings. Don’t get me wrong; I’m as guilty of it as anyone, and I try every day to reduce my consumption of such media. The irony is I rely on such media to raise awareness of my very existence as a content creator. I’d be curious as to what you, as my consumers, think of that.
Tangent aside, how do we develop a system to correct the bug, and patch in better behaviors? The first step is awareness, without letting that awareness frustrate you into inaction. Next, you set the goal. Write it down, on paper, and put it somewhere you are going to see it frequently. If it’s a big goal, such as losing a large amount of weight, getting a blackbelt from scratch, or starting a YouTube channel, break that goal down into smaller goals that are more “achievable”, meaning you can accomplish them in a short time, perhaps a few weeks. Perhaps the larger, longer-term goals should be reframed as achievements, whilst the shorter sub-goals are quests. Reward yourself everytime you accomplish a quest, and have a bigger reward planned for the achievement. Then go forth and do the quests!
If you are having trouble with setting goals, there are dozens of self-help and goal-setting books out there, but one of my favorites are 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson. Although it’s not explicitly a book on setting goals, after reading it, that was the first thing I did. Give it a try.