Lately I have been doing a lot of reflection on how I've been approaching my goal setting process. This was because I started feeling strong bouts of unhealthy emotions (regret, stress, unease, frustration) when I thought about my goals. So I think it came down to the fact that I wasn't using the right framework to set my goals.
I don't think that my goals themselves were inherently unhealthy. I'm pretty sure that I was just using the wrong metrics to measure progress, and worrying about the wrong part of the process. I focused a lot on end results, and worried about the "what if's" - the opportunity costs.
Here's an example: one of my goals is to become financially self-sufficient. That's why I trade stocks and invest in crypto to build wealth and learn personal finance. And so I ended up tracking my net worth on a nifty app called Wealthica, and like a monkey I celebrated when it went up, and worried when it went down.
In my opinion, we get a lot of stress from looking at our absolute position relative to our end goal. People start at different places, and there are days when we make progress, while there are other days when we fall behind. Short term volatility distracts, confuses, and sometimes discourages us.
For the future, I'm going to try a framework that I think is good for my mental health, and actually helps me achieve my goals.
The focus will be on maintaining positive slope on a larger timescale. Instead of constantly focusing on the end goal (eye on the prize method), I can simply work on staying on a positive trajectory. As long as I'm doing better than I did last week (or last month), I need not worry about eventually succeeding. For my financial independence example, I don't need to worry about my current account balance; instead, I can focus on simply making more money than I'm spending. This seems quite simple!
Obviously there can be time restrictions (if I only make a dollar every day, I can only make 36500 dollars in 100 years), so we can refine our objective to always stay above a certain slope. Overall, the process of making it a ritual to stay positive slope looks much more sustainable than the tunnel vision approach of looking at the end goal. I'm less likely to give up, and the fastest approach to success naturally coincides with the maximum average slope.
Another example: Let's say I want to drive from Los Angeles to New York, a distance of around 4500 kilometres, in 3 days. Instead of constantly checking my distance and worrying about getting there in time, I can find solace in knowing that I'll definitely make it as long as I drive faster than 62.5 km/h. Or, if I wanted to get there in record time, I know I definitely will, as long as I'm driving at record speed.
What if it's a goal that can't really be quantified? For example, one of my goals is to become very knowledgeable in science and technology. Well, the positive slope methodology might work even better here: if I have no way of knowing how far ahead the goal is, and where I currently stand, then all I can do is focus on learning more every day.
It's okay to have big hopes and dreams - it's just that sometimes they seem daunting and overwhelming. The magic of the (pretty obvious) positive slope approach is that by focusing on the speedometer, the perceived difficulty diminishes and the chance of success increases even though the actual goal hasn't changed at all.