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Something I find helpful is abandoning the idea of goals (at least for a while), and instead simply focusing on habits.

What do you want to be like? What kind of day would you think was a good one? (here you can include things like "think silently, with no distractions, for 30 minutes" - NOT things like "have 3 good ideas"; also things like "End each day by listing 3 things I want to do the next day, and make sure they get done", rather than "Get lots of stuff done - be incredibly productive")

Design an ideal day. Better yet, design the day you want your 27 year old self to have. Now, you know what your 27 year old self does with his time. You've got 2 years to become that guy.

This means you make gradual changes to your habits. The 30 day method works well for people. Pick one of these new habits that you're aiming to have - only one, seriously - and stick with it for 30 days. Then keep that one going, and add a new one.

If you can do that, you can introduce 12 new habits in one year, and 24 in two years. That's an enormous difference, and it's entirely achievable. Three steps:

1. List the habits your 27 (or 26) year old self has.

2. Pick one for August (but you can start early this month). Do it for the whole month and start a new one in addition in September.

3. That's it. And I don't mean that I'm done. I mean you're done. Stop looking for advice. Don't read productivity blogs. Don't ask any more forums for help. Don't try and perfect this system. It's not perfect, but it's good enough, and doing the good enough beats reading about the perfect. So just do it.

And come back and tell us how you're doing!

Totally agree on the abandoning of goals (and the rest of your comment is also gold).

People here tend to be too goal oriented, and that's perfect when you have a goal that you want to attain in an area that you love working. But the truth is that it seems that having all the basic needs fulfilled you don't find enough attraction to the higher needs (in the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs) that you have in mind. It probably is because the goals you've set aren't really the ones you crave for.

I was, more or less, like you, high twenties, nor happy neither sad, bored with everything. Now, mid thirties, I'm full of energy and will to live to the fullest with the things I love to do. What I did was to start doing activities after work, stuck with the ones I liked (longer the more I liked them) and discarded the ones I didn't like much.

Different martial arts, guitar playing, vegetarian dishes, ... I started to do whatever I felt the desire to do and could be done in a short course (3 months of 1 weekly hour). Until I found my passion (dancing). Now I devote most of my free time to it, I even have left WoW because I have no time for it.

Try things, in a short time scale (i.e.: 7D RPG, NaNoWriMo, weekend kayaking, ...) , and keep with what you have the most fun. Life is worth living, don't waste it all on external goals or in doing things because they will look good on your resumé (unless that's what you love to do, of course).

What is 7D RPG? Google says it's a kind of rocket launcher.

My bad, 7D roguelike, or making a rogue-like game in 7 days. Still too sleep deprived after two weeks of dance classes + parties and coming back to work. Three coffees a day are the bare minimum.

The Ludum Dare 48 hour game making competitions are also pretty fun. A relatively low barrier to entry, a set theme, and a large community.

They probably won't help with sleep much, though. ;-)

I think goals are valuable if you set them right. An overarching goal can be to have 1 of the ideas implemented, and then you can refer back to the goal at the end of each month and evaluate whether or not the tasks you've been setting have gotten you closer to your goals.

This approach combined with having different levels of goals will keep you on the right trajectory in finishing everything you want to accomplish. Something like "Only eat out once a week" can be a goal, it's up to you to choose your level of granularity.

IMO the most important thing is to periodically take a few steps back and reevaluate your current habits in relation to the goals you set.

Great advice and just to add a little to this line of thinking...

Never simply have a goal of losing weight. Instead, think about the lifestyle you want that will take you to a healthy weight. Find good foods that you enjoy and exercises that you don't dread. Your goal isn't to lose weight, it's to create that lifestyle that you really want, which will bring the weight-loss and better health with it.

Maybe use this 30 day method to get in the habit but the key to longevity will be the creation of a better lifestyle that you are truly happy with. It won't take long to see the benefits and being happy with the way you are reaching your goal will make it much easier to stay on that path.

Apply the same method to your ideas.

Find good foods that you enjoy and exercises that you don't dread

Regarding the exercise part of that statement:

I've actually come to terms with the fact that the amount I need to exercise to change my body over time isn't going to be pleasant while I'm doing it and I won't want to exercise every day. I've also come to expect that I'll feel great after I work out. If you couple these realistic expectations with a regular exercise schedule, it's easier to force yourself through your workouts and meet your goals/establish good habits.

Unless you are going to become obsessive about it, exercise should be done for fitness, not weight loss. You'll be much more effective at weight loss by working on what is known as "portion control." That is, change your eating habits.

Yes, it's true that exercise can help suppress your hunger. It can also make you hungrier. Yes, it's true that adding more muscle increases your basal metabolism. But building muscle makes you hungrier. A famous and record-holding power lifter scolded me when I was young: it's a fool's game to try to build muscle and lose weight at the same time (his version was stronger than what I've stated here).

Lose weight through diet. Get fit through exercise. Don't confuse the two goals. If you keep this in mind, then you could have the following strategy: Lose weight, doing only light or moderate exercise that you find fun and distracting enough to keep you from eating. Then, once you are at the weight you like, start exercising for the fitness level you desire.

I signed up just to post this reply.

This is also solid advice. Paul G said in one of his essays about doing something you love doesn't mean doing what makes you happy THIS second, it's something that makes you happy over a longer period (week, month, year).

There are very few people when asked if exercising right now would make them happy yet these same people would tell you they would be delighted to be 10-15 pounds lighter and have more energy in 6-12 months.

Perceiving the difference between liking and wanting is, indeed, useful.

At one time, I was not happy with who I was. The interesting thing is that I did exactly this, what you just described, without realizing until now what I was doing or why. Within a few years, I feel like I knew who I was and who I wanted to become. Now my ideas for my desired self have since changed several times (that is growing up after all), but I've been happy with life in general for much of that time.

That being said, I did enter a dark period that lasted about 8 months after graduating college. I got a job that sounded good on paper. In reality, I was not happy with it, and it did not align with who I wanted to be. It got really bad. It's amazing how detrimental it can be to spend your life doing something that you know isn't you.

I was wondering if you can go into the specifics of what changes you made and how it made you discover who you wanted to become?

The example I remember best was that I felt that I was not confident in myself (in many ways). It was very obvious in the way I walked, slouched, and held my head. I knew that the person I wanted to be was confident, and walked with his head held high. So, I began sitting up straight and walking with purpose (and now I actually had purpose). The way people treated me seemed to change almost immediately. People respect you a lot more when you respect yourself.

I've since modified these traits a few times. For instance, I found out about a year ago from a few people that I apparently intimidate people the first time they meet me. Since then, I've decided that the person I want to be is personable, easily approachable, and makes people comfortable. Since then, I've made a conscious effort to always have a smile on my face when in public, as well as to relax my posture a bit to try to put those around me at ease.

Thanks... this is great advice. I think people have been saying "focus on one thing at a time" for a long time... in fact, I've been saying it to myself for a long time, too, but I have not really been hearing it. The idea of adding 1 new habit every 30 days is interesting and powerful... the mechanics of it can be kind of weird, though--what if there's something I just want to do a couple of times a week, and it's secondary which day it happens on?

Thanks so much for your help.

When your problem is not getting things done, it is not secondary what day you do things. Doing things "whenever" is the natural enemy of forming a positive habit. The more concrete your plan (including a timeline), the easier it will be for you to follow it.

This is much harder. You should start with things that are every day, for your first month or two, so you are already doing well and motivated to continue. And even then I would pick the days of the week beforehand, so you're not tempted to put it off through the week.

Personally I have had more success with NEGATIVE 30 day challenges, than positive 30 day challenges, for this very reason. A negative 30 day challenge is when I don't do something every day, for 30 days. One habit might be not drinking any soda for 30 days. Then you might add not eating any fast food or pizza for 30 days.

Once I stopped medicating myself with food and weed, my true emotions surfaced and it became easier to know when I was deceiving myself. For example, when I am goofing off more than I should, I now feel sad and pained (not guilty), and consequently correct my behavior.

I second the idea of not drinking soda for 30 days. That stuff is unhealthy in various ways, and after a couple weeks, you won't miss it. It's a clear easy win. I did this in high school and have not regretted it.

As I read this I'm reminded of the Bhagavad Gita. I'm not religious, but I find the Gita to be useful in the modern world. Especially chapters 3 and 5.



Sometimes it's easier to change habits in groups rather than alone: http://akkartik.name/blog/resolutions

...It's not perfect, but it's good enough, and doing the good enough beats reading about the perfect. ..

Cannot agree more ...


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