In the first part of this series, we discussed the world as a forum for action, the presupposition of a value hierarchy which accompanies it, and the fundamental need to pursue our highest selves through the implementation of goals. Now, let’s determine which goals are worth pursuing.
Where to Begin
To know where to go, we must first know where we are. This requires an honest self-assessment of what one is: our strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, good and bad habits alike. And then we measure our current lot against a preconceived ideal (the goal we strive toward), displayed below (from Peterson’s Maps of Meaning):
The goal we strive toward is contingent upon the values we possess.
If we sit quietly in a room and ask ourselves: If I were to achieve my highest self, what would that look like? How would I interact with the world? What would my daily practices be?, our minds will become flooded with the habits and perspectives we would possess.
The funny thing is, we’ve always known this and tacitly pursued these goals.
We all liked superheroes as kids, running around the house pretending to save the damsel in distress and fight bad guys. The superheroes of our youth acted in a way we deemed virtuous; they possessed character traits which we ourselves valued. Superman gave us something to aspire toward, a mode of being to enact.
As we’ve aged, we may have replaced that comic book ideal with a model of behavior from religion, philosophy, literature, or someone in our lives. These great men and women serve as the heading for our compass, the brightest star we can see toward which we aim. We choose the goals that, having achieved them, result in us becoming the version of ourselves we aspire to be (the hero whose actions we seek to resemble).
But so many goals fail. How can we ensure that we will succeed?
Goal Setting is Habit Setting
Because when you set a goal, the goal isn’t enough; you must set the habits daily practiced which bring that goal into fruition. When someone sets the goal, I want to lose 20 pounds this winter. They are also tacitly setting a new standard of habits: I’ll drink 8 cups of water a day, workout six times a week, eat less carbs and more veggies, and go for a long walk each day.
The habits are the subroutines which comprise the goal.
I think traditionally we have gone about it circuitously. We praise people for setting goals. But that praise is premature. Our next question should be: What are the daily routines you have committed to undertake to make that goal a reality?
If there are no habits, there is no infrastructure upon which to stand to achieve your goal. As Thoreau said,
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Our habits are these foundations.
Call to Action
1) Consider the people you admire. We admire them for a reason. They possess the traits that we want for ourselves. Decipher precisely what that is and you’ve found your goal.
2) Take time to determine what are the daily habits that will bridge the gap from who you are and who you want to be
3) Write all of this down. Our memories, even for the best of us, can only hold so much.
In our third post of this series, we will discuss how to work towards these goals and creating systems of self-accountability.