On the Shoulders of Giants

by Brian SperonelloIcon

Focus & Goals

Most of my recent posts have in some way involved the concept of thinking long-term, particularly by resisting the pull of immediate distractions and petty urgent problems. While I've worked hard at developing this kind of mindset, I would still like to be better at it. One area where I was failing and didn't know it was letting all the exciting things I hope to accomplish eat up my attention and force me into a state of indecision.

I use a slightly modified version of Tim Ferriss' Dreamline to first identify the things I'd like to achieve the most, and then work towards accomplishing them. In essence you pick four things you want to have, four things you want to be, and four things you want to do; then out of the twelve items you select the four that excite you the most and start working on them.

Filling out the list of possibilities was never a problem for me, like it can be for some people, who over the years have settled into their routines and lost their desire to push themselves in a new direction. I used to think having a large list of fun and ambitious goals I wanted to accomplish was a good thing, and I still do, but now I realize that it can also be a source of problems if not handled properly.

The issue is that after you've selected the four things you want to work on, the other eight items that didn't make the final cut still creep into the back of your mind. This is especially true when you experience setbacks, because you start to wonder if you should have picked a different objective instead of the one you're currently stuck on. It's even an issue if you have success though. If the four goals you've currently picked are all going well, it can cause you to try to add another item to your list — over-extending yourself in the process.

I bring all of this up because a post by Derek Sivers recently made me aware I was having this problem, so now I can work on fixing it. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what about the post was so illuminating, but when I was done reading it I felt like my perspective had changed. I realized that when I pick my four goals at the end of the Dreamlining process, I am also actively not choosing the other eight items. That way, whenever they try to crowd my mental space, I can calmly say to myself "Yes, it would be great to accomplish that, and maybe I will some day, but I've chosen not to work on that right now." It helps kick the distracting thoughts out of my head so I can get back focusing on the goals I'm working towards now.

This post stands on the shoulders of:

Derek Sivers: "Trying to pursue many different directions at once?"

Tim Ferriss: The Dreamline process for setting and achieving goals.


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