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Week 38, 2020: Commitment before accuracy

On life and writing

It's been perhaps the hardest week on the writing front for some time. I’ve spent the week writing and rewriting the same piece, trying to cajole it into something I’m happy with. As I write one of the final drafts of this week’s review, I’m relearning some lessons all over again:

I won’t always like what I write. It’s not an issue. It will be frustrating. And it’s a fact. If the day comes where I do, then I’m probably letting my standards slip, rather than writing anything of value.

I don’t always have to publish what I write. It would be great if everything was up to scratch, but it won’t always be the case. My commitment is to publish something at least once a week, but why publish something I’m unhappy with? Better to chalk it up as a loss and keep moving. The most important part is that I show up and do the work.

On goal setting

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been talking about goals with various people. Members of my team at TransferWise, people I’m close with. People who are unsure of what they want from the future, or how to get there.

Goal setting should be easy. They're a tool to get you moving in the right direction. The hard part, should be achieving them.

To understand how to use them as a tool, first you must start at the end. Interviewers love the question “where do you see yourself in five years”? It’s not much of an interview question because it’s too easy to game. It is however, a great opportunity for self reflection.

By starting with a question like this (I call them seed questions) you can start to understand how you see your future self. By having a vision of your future, you can work backwards to what you need to do now to make it happen.

Let’s say you want to own a house. In the UK, you’ll need either a 5% or 10% deposit to secure a mortgage. By knowing these facts, you can set a saving goal. A saving goal enables you to evaluate your finances. Evaluating your finances allows you to make adjustments so you can reach the saving goal in good time.

It’s easy to say that you don’t know what you want from the next five years. But I’d bet you have a better idea of that than you think. I’d be surprised if you’ve never come out with “I need a holiday” or “wouldn’t it be amazing to live in New York”. That’s a starting point.

If you’re unsure, break the question down into smaller questions. Where will you live? What sort of people will you be friends with? What job will you have? How much money will you earn? You can at least answer these.

What you say might sound unrealistic. But as Rolf Potts proves in Vagabonding, things tend to be a lot more accessible than you think. It’s the ambiguity that makes them seem unobtainable.

Perhaps you’re unsure of your answers. Maybe you question whether they’re the right goals for you. That’s the secret. A goal is better than no goal. No goal is a goal in itself: to maintain the status quo.

Committing to them is the fastest way to learn whether they're right or wrong.

Committing to them now doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind later.

How to set goals

I didn't want to cover the actual process of setting goals. There are far more qualified people out there who can help you. Here's some of my fav articles on the subject:

  1. How to set actionable goals
  2. SMART goals are not so smart: make a PACT instead
  3. Turning push goals into pull goals
  4. Fear-Setting: The Most Valuable Exercise I Do Every Month

Finally, consider leaning on those around you. Share your plans. A five minute conversation about them can yield more clarity on your future than you think. Don't be put off by naysayers. They're full of "what ifs" and excuses too.

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