The every day rule changed how I set goals.
I’ve always been fascinated by the subject of personal development. The idea that we can aspire to better ourselves is so beautiful to me.
But I had to rethink how I set my personal goals from the ground up—because it wasn’t working for me.
And I found a contrarian approach that has less to do with the actual goals and more to do with how I live my everyday life.
Here we go:
The Flawed Epic Year Concept
A decade or so ago, I started comparing years. Some years of my life were propelling me forward by a lot, and some years weren’t. The difference between such years wasn’t subtle; it was substantial.
I figured that years of immense personal growth contained at least four major life events (moving homes, getting married, having children, starting a new job etc.), so I named such years epic years. The tactical implementation of an epic year was straightforward: Push to shorten the “dead” interval between significant life events to maximise personal growth.
It was an understandable conclusion at the time, I think. The years between 30 and 40 can be stressful; a lot is supposed to happen for a well-adjusted white-collar urban professional with a university degree. Get married, start a family, elevate your career, and get a household in order.
As I’ve grown wiser, I’m more relaxed about “personal growth.” I find that significant life events tend to occur on their inherent schedule—and that they shouldn’t be forced.
Instead, I’ve applied a drastically different approach.
A New Approach to Goal-Setting
Today, I’m less and less interested in fighting the comings and goings of tides.
The change in perspective came about as I was thinking about personal goals. I felt that there was a disturbing downside to setting goals. I’m not too fond of authorities, and a goal can quickly morph into a normative annoyance in life.
I reasoned that the perfect goal provided the sense of being on the right trajectory here and now—without over-emphasising the importance of reaching the destination as soon as possible. Or ever, even.
Another way to put it:
The importance of a goal is not the goal itself but how it impacts me today. According to this line of reasoning, I now set goals to give meaning and purpose to my present, not my future.
How? Let me explain.
The Every Day Rule
Let’s say that I’m playing around with writing a book. It’s a non-trivial goal and a substantial undertaking. If I were to write every other day, I would eventually be writing every third day, then every fourth day.
Soon enough, I wouldn’t be writing regularly at all, but the goal would still be there, lurking in the dark. And, I’d be feeling lousy about the whole thing. (And yes, I’m speaking of personal experience here.) Knowing myself, I now accept that ambition and motivation eventually wear off.
So, for me, it’s every day—or nothing.
Why? I think that my personality matters, but that’s not all.
Everyday habits compound twice as fast as every-other-day habits. Not just results compound, but neurological patterns and psychological self-identification, too. If I write every day, being a writer becomes a part of how I conduct and identify myself. It becomes a master override that renders ambition and motivation non-determinant. 1An interesting parallel here is James Clear’s approach to habits (as described in his best-selling book Atomic Habits) by focusing on small but frequent incremental improvements to reach … Continue reading
From Long-Term Goals to Daily Efforts
Based on the every day rule, I now only set goals that can be broken down into daily efforts.
|Long-Term Goal||Daily Effort|
|Improve health.||Intermittent fasting—one meal a day (OMAD).|
|Eat better food.||Cook home-made dinner every day at restaurant-level quality.|
|Launch online course.||One session of scripting, filming or editing every evening.|
|Be more grateful.||Tell my wife and son that I love them twice a day (morning and evening).|
|Teach my son to read and write.||Read and discuss books every night before bedtime.|
|Become a better photographer.||Either shoot or edit a new photo every day—or watch a tutorial.|
|Explore watches as a hobby.||Always wear a watch but never wear the same watch two days in a row.|
|Be more structured.||Update Notion (“Second Brain”) when having coffee in the morning.|
There’s Only One Day—Today
The Every Day Rule comes with an interesting constraint: there’s only so much time in a single day.
And so on.
By placing more weight on every day (literally) activities and less on the actual end results, I’ve created more focus and achieved more significant results in less time.
|An interesting parallel here is James Clear’s approach to habits (as described in his best-selling book Atomic Habits) by focusing on small but frequent incremental improvements to reach significant goals through compounding effects.|