Importance of Long Term Goal Setting

The important thing is not where you were or where you are but where you want to get.

Without knowledge of your destination, you are bound to waste your time, driving aimlessly. Even if you know where you wish to go but don’t plan on how you’ll get there then you’re bound to get lost.

In life, there is a default position where people aimlessly wander, simply hoping that someday their dreams come true. But no one ever stumbles upon success. No one accidentally achieves their dreams.

Rather, the achievement of one’s dreams requires concentrated and focused effort. As David J. Schwartz puts it in his book The Magic of Thinking Big:

A goal is an objective, a purpose. A goal is more than a dream; it’s a dream being acted upon. A goal is more than a hazy “Oh, I wish I could.” A goal is a clear “This is what I’m working toward.”

The importance of goal setting is common knowledge. So common that we often underestimate its importance of it and overlook the benefits we can derive from it. Many times we set big goals that we hope to achieve someday without giving thought to the smaller steps that will get us to our goal. Or, we may figure out the small things that we need to do but don’t know to what end we are aiming for.

Either way, you’ll have a hard time reaching your goals.

Instead of vague wishes, goal setting should be used not only to accomplish certain actions but also to improve yourself and improve the conditions of your life. To this point, David Schwartz encourages people to create a 10-year plan. This sounds like a daunting task because many of us don’t even know exactly what we want for dinner, how then can we create goals for ourselves for the next 10 years?

First, you have to understand the importance of such action. Schwartz uses the analogy of a forward-looking business, which would be business’ which plan for the future in order to keep growing, as a blueprint for individual growth.

Each of us can learn a precious lesson from the forward-looking business. We can and should plan at least 10 years ahead. You must form an image now of the person you want to be 10 years from now if you are to become that image. This is a critical thought. Just as the business that neglects to plan ahead will be just another business (if it even survives), the individual that fails to set long-range goals will most certainly be just another person lost in life’s shuffle. Without goals, we cannot grow.

In recent times I’ve started to think more about the kind of person I want to be as much as the things I want to accomplish. I look for the characteristic that I wish to have and those characteristics I wish to get rid of such as browsing car ad’s or looking for some new gadget that would be nice to own for the time being. Not that there is anything wrong with material possessions, but those things come and go and only bring me short term satisfaction but there is a nagging voice in my head that keeps me from being satisfied with the person that I am because I know that I am not who I wish to be.

This is where goals like the 10-year plan. Such plans can allow you to aim at an ideal version of you and can help you outline steps to get there. In order to create your own long term plan, you have to focus on two things.

First, visualize your future in terms of three departments: work, home and social. Dividing your life this way keeps you from becoming confused prevents conflicts, helps you look at the whole picture.

Second, demand of yourself clear, precise answers to these questions: what do I want to accomplish with my life? What do I want to be? and What does it take to satisfy me?

A more detailed plan would look somewhat like this:

Work department: 10 years from now:

  1. What income level do I want to attain?
  2. What level of responsibility do I seek?
  3. How much authority do I want to command?
  4. WHat prestige do I expect to gain from my work?

Home Department: 10 years from now:

  1. What kind of standard of living do I want to provide for my family and myself?
  2. What kind of house do I want to live in?
  3. What kind of vacations do I want to take?
  4. What financial support do I want to give my children in their early adult years?

Social department: 10 years from now:

  1. What kinds of friends do I want to have?
  2. What social groups do I want to join?
  3. What community leadership positions would I like to hold?
  4. What worthwhile cause do I want to champion?

I would personally add a self department which would be to work on your own health and habits, including attitudes and behaviors.

All of this planning and goal setting is done because, in order to get somewhere, you must know first where you are going. Once you have an aim then you can take action. Once your long term goals are set then you can break them down into smaller steps which would include the things you need to accomplish this year which would get you closer to your overarching goal and then, what you need to accomplish within the next 6 months, 3 months, month, weeks, and days.

In this manner, you live your life actively with each day being of use. You wake up with a purpose and plan and go to sleep knowing that you did what you were supposed to do and over time you will be able to recognize the progress you have made.

This is ultimately the point of goal setting: To make incremental progress. Such progress brings meaning to one’s life and leads to a more fulfilled life.

Use goals to live longer. No medicine in the world–and your physician will bear this out–is as powerful in bringing about long life as is the desire to do something.

Vladimir Nabakov On What Makes A Great Writer

I’ve read the works of great writers like Homer, McCarthy, Hemingway, Marukami, Faulker, O’Connor, Joyce and many others, including Nabakov himself, and have wondered what exactly is it that gives me this feeling or the understanding that these words were written by a great writer.

Was it the voice or narration used by the author, or how a setting was described in such detailed that you might imagine it to be a part of your own memory, or a conversation so truthfully written that you pick up on the subtle information that wasn’t said, or how the main character was unpacked, slowly revealing his flaws and desires as he attempts to overcome himself, or how the moral lessons were beautifully etched throughout the story.

Perhaps its the confrontation of difficult topics like pedophilia as Nabakov did in his famed novel Lolita or that massacre of innocent people in McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and yet, the word beautiful can be used to describe both novels. That must be the mark of a great writer.

In order to truly understand what makes a great writer, it is a good idea to ask a great writer. Nabakov, in the book, Lectures on Literature, gives three aspects, which combined, results in a major writer.

There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines this three-storyteller, teacher, enchanter-but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.

The storyteller is the entertainer. He tells a story for simple excitement, emotional participation and to travel to a unique region.

A slightly different though not necessarily higher mind looks for the teacher in the writer.

As the name suggests, a teacher is someone who gives you knowledge through writing. This can be deep moral education or knowledge about simple facts.

The enchanter is a level above both the storyteller and the teacher.

Finally, and above all, a great writer is always a great enchanter, and it is here that we come to the really exciting part when we try to grasp the individual magic of his genius and to study the style, the imagery, the pattern of his novels or poems.

As I look back and remember the great pieces of fiction and non-fiction I have read, I can see the three elements at work. Even the simplest plotted stories or stories that seem to have no plot are entertaining and I find myself connecting to the story at an emotional level. Each story has a lesson or knowledge that can be derived from it. Above all, the works I find to be great have the features of enchantment which have left me with an itch to study the writing, to see how the particular style was integrated or how an image was constructed or how the story was interwoven.

As Nabakov puts it, it is in the spine that you feel the great writers touch.

The three facets of the great writer-magic, story, lesson-are prone to blend in one impression of unified and unique radiance, since the magic of art may be present in the very bones of the story, in the very marrow of thought. There are masterpieces of dry, limpid, organized thought which provoke in us an artistic quiver quite as strongly as a novel like Mansfield Park does or as any rich flow of Dickensian sensual imagery. It seems to me that a good formula to test the quality of a novel is, in the long run, a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science. In order to bask in that magic, a wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle even though we must keep a little aloof, a little detached when reading. Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual, we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards an~ watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.

Poem: We Are Art

We are art,

a crimson stroke from a paintbrush,

casting, waning, flame-like light of the setting sun,

no such thing as silence in nature’s symphony,

Dylan’s raspy voice singing about changing times,

breeze makes the grass sing, the woodpecker pecks, your heart beats,

all together, making nature’s tunes,

knotted roots of ancient trees, your grandfather’s wisdom,

changing times makes the leaves brittle,

your grandmothers caring hands,

all part of the picture which nature paints.

 

Change is art,

death and dying,

live and living,

both leave an imprint on the portrait like a distinct curl of the pen tip,

human art captures a moment in time,

nature’s art is endless,

like the crashing waves on a shoreline,

in the distance, another wave rises,

nature’s art is never completed,

human art can be destroyed,

burning pages, melting paint, toppled statues,

are all part of the story nature is telling,

and hence, it’s art is immortal,

for as we hold the pen or brush,

nature holds us,

what we create,

nature creates,

our art is part of its art,

A singular piece, perhaps not even the main subject,

for we are part of nature and not a distinct entity,

and with the understanding that we are part of its art,

we are art.

Jocko Willink On Dealing With Stress

I previously wrote a blog in which I introduced Jocko Willink and one of his core principles of prioritizing and execute, this can be found here. As the title suggests, this blog is concerned with handling stress and who better to take advice from than a former navy seal commander.

Stress also needs no introduction. We have all experienced stress and sometimes dealt with it successfully and other times not so successfully. It is for those times where stress got the better of us that I turn to Jocko for advice.

In his book, Discipline Equals Freedom Field Manual, Jocko simply states two things concerning stress.

First is to gain perspective. Not to minimize what you are going through but it is always good to understand that other people have been through much worse. This does not mean that what you are going through isn’t important. It is important and it is real but remember, those people who have had stress beyond what you have ever experienced, they made it through that, they figured out what was required and they were able to deal with their stress, which means you can too.

But warriors have faced much much worse: The Battle of the Somme, or Gettysburg, or the Battle of the Bulge, or the Chosin Reservoir. Humans can withstand almost inconceivable stress — and you can too.

Perspective allows you to take a deep breath and calm your mind and think clearly.

Secondly, you must detach from your situation. This is done in order to see if you have control over whatever it is that is causing you stress. This is a simple yes or no. If the answer is no, then, you just have to accept the situation that is causing you stress.

The worst thing about incoming artillery fire is you can’t control it. It is happening and you just have to accept it. Don’t stress about things you can’t control.

However, if the answer is yes and you do have control over the situation that is causing you stress, then detachment allows you to see your own lack of discipline and ownership of the situation which has resulted in it becoming a stressor. So, simply take control of the situation, solve the issue and relieve the stress.

Poem: A Summer’s Day

As kids, you look forward to the summer,

you know it will be filled with play and laughter,

recklessly using time with friends,

dreaming of all the things you will do, while you’re stuck in classrooms,

sugary drinks, first kiss, melting ice creams, first love, cooling by the swimming pools, new sights, new sounds, new feelings, new touches, new tastes, new life,

enter the season with hopes and promises,

of what you will do and who you will be afterward,

but you wake up one day and the summer is gone,

a flash of lightning,

did you see that?

what you had looked forward to is now in the past,

another summer is gone and that’s a summer less,

have to wait a whole year to feel that again,

you’ll be older,

you may be a different person by then,

a multitude of experiences await you between two summers,

the next summer will flash by too because you looked forward to it,

everything you look forward to quickly recedes in the past,

life,

like a summer’s day,

life,

comes and goes quickly,

if you keep looking forward,

what you fondly wait for becomes what you fondly remember,

make use of what you have,

life is the present,

for perhaps your last summer approaches,

perhaps its already come and gone.

Montaigne On How To Judge Someone’s Actions

In his Essays, Montaigne writes on the topic of action and how to judge other people’s actions. For Montaigne, it comes down to two things which are related to one another: What was in that person’s control and what was not.

So, for example, if someone owes you money and they promised to pay you by a certain date and that date comes and goes and yet, you have not received your payment. The natural reaction would be to get angry, to get aggressive in order to get back what is rightly yours because you feel cheated. However, Montaigne would advise you to take a deep breath and step back from the situation and think the following:

We cannot be held to promises beyond our power or our means. That is why – since actions and performances are not wholly in our power and since nothing is really in our power but our will – it is on the will that all the rules and duties of Man are based and established.

What Montaigne advises is to judge whether or not that individual intended to honor the payment by the specified date. If the answer is yes but external situations got in the way of that individual and his intention then what use is it to get angry, to get aggressive, to demand and hurt this individual who is incapable of acting beyond his means.

If you judge the individual to be a cheat and that they had no intention of paying you back then yes, you have the right to all those emotions but at the same time, you must look at yourself. Take ownership of the situation and ask yourself why did you lend the money? What were your intentions? How did you get cheated? Why didn’t you see this lie coming?

Furthermore, sticking with the example of lending money, let’s say that you lent a person money without putting a strict date of when the payment is to be repaid. This individual then benefits from your loan and is capable of paying you the money and yet, keeps it for himself for a long period of time, perhaps even till his deathbed and on that day, he returns the favor and gives you your money.

In this case, the person would consider himself even with you. You gave him money and then he paid it back. Equal transaction.

However, Montaigne would argue that this individual has committed a wrong. The reason being that he had the means of paying you back but did not intend to do so until he could no longer benefit from your loan. The intention being the key when judging another person’s actions. So, although you have been paid what you owe, you still may have a gripe with this person because you could have put that money to good use or at least, alleviate some financial burdens. While, in the other scenario, the person intended to pay you back but had no means to do so, which means harboring a grudge with this individual would be useless.

One of the core philosophy of Stoicism is understanding what you can control and what you cannot. Montaigne was a student of Stoic philosophy and you can see its influence throughout his essays. Particularly, on this topic of correctly judging another person’s actions.

So, before you judge someone’s actions just think of the intentions, their will, what was in their control and what was not. This will make it easier for you to properly react to the situation at hand and to keep your emotions in check.