The Hard Thing About Hard Goals

Making and keeping goals is hard. What seems perfectly reasonable to us now appears absolutely impossible tomorrow, when we have to execute on our goals outside of the comfort in which we created them. Standing at the bottom of the mountain looking up is intimidating, and even starting can seem like a real challenge, and so often we decide to do something else instead. Tools like Beeminder can help us work against this tendency but they come with a dark side: sometimes the mountain is too big to climb every single day.

I struggle with this. On the one hand, I have a few days each week where I feel like my Beeminder goals aren’t really what I want to be doing with my time and that I would be better off pausing them or skipping one of them for the night. Usually that’s just my akratic self complaining, and as I review my goals I realize that yes, I do in fact want to do all of these things and no, there aren’t any that I can just let fall. But then I come across something new that I want to do — for example, I want to develop more of a writing habit, to improve my finger strength for rock climbing, to meditate more often. These things, while nice, are also time consuming on top of the baseline goals that I’ve already set for myself.

Sometimes, you just have to let things float a bit.


For these kinds of goals I’ve been using, a habit tracking system which lets you check in on the things that you want to do but don’t necessarily want to put money on.


It has nice animations every time you check in, ranging from a “Nice job!” to a little high-five.


There’s also a calendar and streak view which shows how long you’ve managed to hold on to a daily habit, and I find that motivating enough to have held on to a daily “Wake up on time” goal for 47 days. While it’s not as motivating as a red Beeminder graph, it’s sufficient for those things that don’t really need that level of guarantee. It’s enough if I mostly hit my repetition targets with these, and it fills the tracking gap that just winging it leaves.