Today I started reading a book called “The Motivation Hacker”. It’s by Nick Winters, who wrote it during a 3 month period where he attempted to accomplish 18 of his life goals simultaneously. That’s a pretty intense undertaking, and he had to apply some motivation tricks to stay on track. Of late I’ve been trying to recover some of my own motivation so I can apply it to a few goals of mine but I’ve been suffering from a lack of clarity on just what those goals are and what they would look like when they’re done.
At a high level, I want to do things that move me closer to my aspirational self, the person I imagine myself being when I envision my ideal future. What does that person look like? What does he do, and how does he live? I know that I’m not quite there yet, and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing what I’m doing now - working all day during the week and spending my nights playing video games and watching TV. I want to go on adventures and have stories to tell when I’m old and gray, to be able to say that I accomplished something during my life and that I experienced it fully. After all, I only get one of them.
So what experiences would I like to have? Well, one of the easier ones to pinpoint is that I’d like to travel and explore the world more. It was only a year ago that I took my first trip outside of North America, when Lauren and I visited Austria and Hungary during a spur-of-the-moment trip. I had a great time and I want to explore more places. This year I’m going to knock Amsterdam off my list, and that’s a good step forward.
I also want to explore the outdoors more. To that end, I signed up for an ice climbing class through EMS for this winter; it’s going to cover the basics of how to move around on steep winter landscapes and should be useful for exploration as well as being fun in its own right. I’ve also been working on my rock climbing, trying to build up strength and endurance at the local climbing gym with some of my buddies. It’s a ton of fun, and I hope next year I’ll be able to get them to go on a climbing trip with me!
The “me” I aspire to is a world traveler and an explorer of the natural world. What else? He’s also a technologist and inventor, an entrepreneur, a writer, and a polyglot. In addition to working on software projects, I want to expand my horizons to grasp mechanical and electrical systems more thoroughly. Right now I have a basic working knowledge of these fields, but I’m being held back by my mathematics. I’ll need to improve that too, particularly in the various branches of calculus. At the moment I am gainfully employed as a software engineer at Google, a job which comes with variety of benefits and which gives me the resources to travel and expand my horizons. I’m very grateful to be so fortunate, and it certainly is helping me to achieve many of these goals, but I also want to own my own business someday and contribute back to the world through it in my own way.
Being a writer doesn’t necessarily mean writing a book, though it could; rather, for me it means being someone who communicates with the world and has a presence in it via some sort of persistent medium. A blog is a basic example of that. In my vision I have something worthwhile to share and a means of doing so, perhaps because of my adventures or something else that arose during my invention or business experiences.
Developing language skills is another life goal of mine. During high school I took a Spanish course, as many American students do, but I didn’t have really put any substantial effort in to it. Travelling and being able to communicate with people in their language has finally provided that motivation. Spanish is a relatively easy language to learn, and an investment there could pay off quite well with any trip to South or Central America. The rest of the world is more difficult, and with fewer (and harder) dominant languages to learn I’m taking a different approach. Right now I’m putting in a small amount of effort to learn Esperanto in the hopes that it may be useful at some point in the future. At the very least, it may open some doors to Esperantists living in other countries that I may want to visit who can provide support and guidance.
To coalesce some of what I’ve written here, I guess my goals fit into these broad categories:
- See more of the world and visit more cultures
- Explore natural wonders and the great outdoors
- Invention and Commerce
- Complete projects that push my abilities and provide value or satisfaction
- Build a business that helps people do things they couldn’t before
- Learn new languages, particularly Spanish and Esperanto
- Build skills in mathematics that help with engineering projects
- Living well
- Stay healthy and fit for exploration
- Keep a sharp mind to be able to learn
- Maintain healthy finances to pay for all of it
These are not exhaustive - I want to do a lot of other things as well! However, this is probably a good core list that requires sustained investment of time and energy to complete. Of course, life isn’t lived in years and decades, it’s lived in days, hours, and minutes. I need shorter term goals if I’m going to actually
achieve my long term ones, so let’s break it down into something I can accomplish with what’s left of this year.
My 3 Month Goals, Q4 2015
Goal: Improve rock climbing ability
Criteria: Be able to climb 5.10 gym routes consistently
Goal: Improve baseline fitness by 10% or more
Criteria: 5RMs @ 335 DL, 135 Press, 250 Squat, 160 Bench; 15 pull ups; 50 push ups; 1.5 mile run in 12 minutes or less
Goal: Improve flexibility
Criteria: Be able to wrap fingers around to bottom of foot
Goal: Improve body composition
Criteria: Weigh 165lbs (current 175)
Travel & Exploration
Goal: Learn how to ice climb
Criteria: Complete EMS ice climbing class with flying colors
Goal: Visit a foreign country
Criteria: Visit one or more countries outside of North America
Goal: Explore the area
Criteria: Go on 3 local hikes
Goal: Learn Esperanto
Criteria: Finish Duolingo Esperanto skill tree
Goal: Finish a software project
Criteria: Launch Compost to the general public and announce it on Twitter and the blog
Goal: Write on the blog
Criteria: Write a post every week, and a status update on goals at least once a month.
Goal: Finish 6 books
Criteria: Read Thinking Fast and Slow, The Motivation Hacker, The Martian, Ancillary Mercy, and two other books
Goal: Eat in more
Criteria: Eat dinner at home 4+ nights a week
That’s a lot of goals, but they’re all things that I’m more or less working towards already - albeit in a somewhat confused and haphazard way. My hope is that by setting clear objectives and criteria for success I can harness more motivation to accomplish them fully. I’ll also be using whatever motivational techniques I can glean from The Motivation Hacker. As a starting point, I’m going to precommit to these on my blog and set up Beeminder goals for the ones that I can track easily. Part of my blogging will be to publicly track my progress and force me to keep an eye on things. With luck, this will be a very worthwhile and valuable quarter!
Here are some pretty graphs from Beeminder, a tool I’ll use to track my progress and enforce my contract with myself:
Do 10 points of Esperanto on Duolingo each day
Read 10 pages of a book or periodical each day
Publish a blog post every week
Eat at home 4 nights a week
Run at least 3 miles a week
Go to the gym at least 3 times a week
Spend 4 hours a week on projects
Spend 60 minutes a week stretching or doing yoga
If I “derail”, or miss my designated check-ins on these goals, Beeminder will charge me increasing amounts of money until I get my act together.