in General.

How to set (life) goals.

Thinking about what I’m looking for in work and personal goals. I just got more and more confused myself, litterally. Everytime I thought I had an answer. Just challeging it with one or a few “why-questions” always killed it.

After struggeling a few months something came to my mind from a TED-talk Elon Musk did. Near the end he said: “Let me make clear I’m not trying to be anyones saviour, I just want to wake up every morning and not be sad about the future”. Somehow at that moment it struck me, how can he not have a general feeling of beeing a saviour, but just wants to be optimistic about the future? With everything he does? After continously getting stuck on my own goals, I thought my next try to get clarity could come from someone I preceive as one of the brightest people on earth.

Lets compare both options as goal to devote your life to;
– Saviour of humanity
– Not be sad about the future

But add one other more personal and common one, so the list goes from inpersonal to personal;
1. Saviour of humanity
2. Not be sad about the future
3. Get wealthy

1. Saviour of humanity.
This is the first and most aspirational goal from the list. Everybody will like you for doing it and when achieving it, you are a hero. But on the other hand it is also nearly impossible to achieve and feel satisfied about and can on the otherhand destroy your own life if you set it as primary goal.

3. Get wealthy.
This is the other side and most egocentric goal. People in general won’t like you for doing it as generating loads of money can destroy other lives if you set it as primary goal.

2. Not be sad about the future.
Lets turn this around in “be happy about the future”. This is perfectly applicable as both a personal and general goal. Opposite to “saviour of humanity” where you need other people to confirm this is the case, getting happy about the future is something you can contribute too and feel good about.

This middle area makes (to me) a nice and elegant compromise (maybe at some point even isn’t a compromise) for goals if you want to be good to yourself and the world.

How to make goals concrete.

Knowing/thinking what is the abstract context of a clear goal poses a new hurdle. How to make it concrete? Also in this case Elon Musk has a interesting and usable way to think about it; “I look at the future from the standpoint of probabilities. It’s like a branching stream of probabilities, and there are actions that we can take that affect those probabilities or that accelerate one thing or slow down another thing. I may introduce something new to the probability stream.”. This makes a very concrete way to create goals: Use your skills in areas where you can introduce probabilities to the stream that create a better future.

The challenge posed here is scale/stream of probabilities you want to look at. I would say on three axes; time, area and distance. So for example do you want to increase the probability of a happy life via a new house (distance ~ small, area ~ personal & time ~ 10 years) or start lowering the cost of sustainable food production via a certain skillset or company (distance ~ world, area ~ food & time ~ 30 years) and any distance, area and time scale you can imagine suitable for you. Assuming for most people purpose in life is important, start looking into the area where you can derive most purpose for yourself, either personal or work related.

Applying the knowledge.

So how would you apply this and what is the outcome?

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