On my own personal blog site, I have always posted my own goals for the year. In the past, my enthusiasm for the goal setting effort would get the best of me. I would document way way to many goals. I felt that having more was better because it gave me a better chance of knocking off a bunch of them and then feeling really good about myself, and the percentage would be impactful. Some were about experiences and some were about stuff or accomplishments, some were large and some were small. I was into volume, and assuming that equaled quality.
Because the small goals were much easier to make happen, they were the ones that I would end up knocking off the list first. Unfortunately, since they were easy, they were also the least impactful in my life. I would get a bunch of the easier things done, and then would be left with the long list of hard to accomplish things. I would get busy with the rest of my life, and lose site of the goals and actions required to make an impact on those larger things and in the end I would fail. The next year, I would vow that I was not going to let that same thing happen to me again, but in the end that scenario would repeat itself year after year. It was feeling like rinse and repeat – only with a gazillion rinse cycles.
What did I learn from the déjà vu repeating groundhog day that would make Bill Murray proud?
1. Don’t avoid the hard things. They will still be there after you do that, and they do not look any easier later.
2. Things do not really matter in your life. Things are easy to make happen, but actually have little impact on the quality of your life. Things make you think you will be better off because you have them, but in reality things are just inanimate objects or arbitrary designations that cannot fill you up inside.
3. People and animals can give you a sense of purpose in your life, things cannot.
4. Focus on the big things, the hard things in your life. They can make a difference, and the small stuff does not. This reinforces for me the statement about not sweating the small stuff…
Today, I am boiling my goals for next year (and probably more years after that), down to these 5 goals.
Get a healthy lifestyle. Your friends are getting older. Some of them will live longer than you, some will not. The healthy lifestyle will not insure that you live longer, but it will not hurt.
- Eat better
- Get some exercise every day
- Get enough sleep
I am focusing on those 3 simple elements, as I truly believe they are the foundation of a healthy life. Eat better, get some exercise, get enough sleep. We are all busy, but make those steps happen, they will make a difference.
Embrace your situation. Shit happens, get over it. Life isn’t always pretty and easy. Your situation isn’t any harder or worse than anyone else’s situation is. I mean, in reality I have no idea if your situation or my situation is harder or worse than others. That isn’t the point though. The point is that today is another day, and just because yesterday wasn’t great doesn’t mean today will be the same. Remember, “Wherever you are, there you are.” (Check Buckaroo Banzai if you want to see that quote in it’s original form.)
Overnight success is a myth. Success takes hard work. The successful marriage of your friends isn’t by accident, it happens because the couple works at it. The successful business down the street isn’t by luck, but rather by the owner applying themselves everyday and working hard at it – everyday. Try to do something everyday that moves your situation forward or enhances your life.
Live your life like your dog would. Dogs are amazing, they just embrace their situation for what it is, and they are always ready for whatever the days adventure brings. They love their owners, unconditionally. They don’t like being left home alone but they do not hold it against you when you come in the door. There is a lesson in there for all of us, and one that is pretty easy to distill.
- Everyday is a new adventure.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Run fast because you can.
Friends and Family are what is really important. We all know the saying, “No one ever lies on their death bed wishing they had worked more.” Of course I have no way of knowing if that is true or not, but it seems pretty reasonable. Look, everyone has to work, but when you are done working do not fill your time with things that do not matter. Make sure that when you are not working, you are present with your family and your friends. Remember, “play time is not wasted time.”
When my kids were little, we would play a game at the dinner table that we called “Best and Worst”. Everyone had to tell the table what was good in their day and what was not so good. No one was allowed to pass, everyone played. You also could not “mail in” your responses. Everyone had to tell something and everyone had to have something unique to present (no answers like “same that she said”). The game and the incredible conversations that it fostered, became the mainstay of our family time together, and to this day keeps us all engaged and together.
People are different, but I have learned that these are the things that really matter for my happiness. I think if you let yourself embrace these as well, you might just save yourself the trial and error process I had to go through to learn the lesson.
If this is a little bit on the flippant side for you, or you find yourself asking “who is this Joe character, and what does he know?” I have no credentials in this space, other than I have made all the mistakes. Trust me, I am not the only one saying these same things.