On Yearly Planning.
As I write this in the second half of December, I’m thinking about my yearly plan. I began planning in October, giving it time to grow and develop.
I have used this extra time to think about my goals for the new year and how to set them.
I have previously argued that goals are not that essential; they point us in the right direction in the same way that the North Star helps sailors. But, goals don’t provide much guidance on what to do in the short term.
To achieve significant, meaningful goals, you must break them down into smaller milestones. These milestones can be further divided into even smaller goals. Eventually, you will reach the level of weekly and daily goals that will guide your daily activities.
Do you choose Netflix or productivity? This decision must be made every day. It is connected to your long-term objectives. The reward of achieving these goals is greater than watching Netflix.
I find daily progress always feels slow. I can’t see much improvement daily, which is very frustrating. But I’ve learned to trust the long-term process of improvement. It’s like going to the gym. You don’t see any changes in the mirror after one session. You may even feel weaker. But you’ll see huge differences if you do the same action 100 times.
I have broken down my yearly goals into quarterly and monthly goals this year. At the end of each month, I aim to conduct a “test” to review my progress and ensure I’m on track. I have also listed daily habits that are connected to these goals. I believe if I keep up these habits, I will be able to reach my long-term goals.
This is not a drastic transformation, but I think it will have a significant impact. I attained 40% of my 2022 yearly objectives, which is not bad, but neither is it impressive. With enough dedication and determination, I could have accomplished my objectives. Of course, some of the goals required a lot of self-control, which I lacked, but they were all attainable.
Humans are curious creatures. We often know exactly what we should do, yet we still don’t do it. It seems a self-destructive force inside us wants us to fail. Or maybe we don’t even try because we fear failure. If we don’t try, the results stay hypothetical. And the pain of not trying seems less than the pain of trying and failing.
In high school, I was great at this. I never studied for tests, yet I often got good grades. Boasting that I hadn’t studied made me feel secure, no matter what the outcome. If I did well, I could be proud of my achievement without any effort. If I did poorly, it was okay because I hadn’t tried hard.
Face reality head-on. Put yourself out there, even if failure is a possibility. If you try your best and still fail, that’s a great result. Reflect and understand what happened and why. This is a mature approach.
Failing to learn from mistakes is the only absolute failure.
Experience is pointless without taking time to reflect. You don’t just learn from doing; you learn from analyzing what you’ve done and how you can do better in the future. That’s why taking the time to do absolutely nothing can be beneficial. I mean nothing—no technology or other distractions. This creates a situation where you have no stimulation and must think about your choices and what lies ahead.
There is also important to understand that some decisions are far more critical than others and then know when to decide quickly and when to take your time. This is typically done by considering how reversible the decision is and also how consequential it is.
For instance, suicide is the most irreversible and consequential decision available to a human being. Still, I stand with the ancient Greeks and Romans that it is sometimes a course of action that is valid for an individual.
However, this is not something you would want to decide in an afternoon; it would have to be a decision reached after a significant amount of reflection on possible alternative paths.
Most decisions are not as critical as taking your own life, but they still require significant reflection and consideration.
Many people don’t plan for their lives. But planning is an unavoidable reality that can’t be ignored. Having an overarching life philosophy is essential. Not having a life philosophy is still a life philosophy, just an incoherent one. So, not having a written plan is opting for an incoherent plan.
But I do understand why many people opt not to have a plan. It appears that we are lone individuals swimming in a vast sea, with strong currents entirely outside our control.
Politics, economics, and the will of other people, both close and far, conspire to upset even the most carefully laid out plans. So if a plan is bound to fail, why bother to plan at all?
This argument does have some legs. It is true you cannot control everything that happens in life, but that does not mean everything is out of your control. For starters, the attitude that you bring to your endeavours is ultimately yours, and so is the emotional response that you have to the external events that happen.
So the process is clear.
Set ambitious plans. Try to achieve them. Fail. Reflect on what went wrong. Create a new plan.