Thursday, 13 September 2012

How do you set goals that work? The key to effective goal setting

The great advantage of Aristotelian philosophy is its universality. Nevertheless, for everyday decisions, who has the time to check the validity of long chains of reasoning? The fact is that modern life requires instantaneous choices, professional and private. If we do not possess an effective way to deal with complexity, we run the risk of letting random events determine our priorities.

Philosophy summarized in one principle

Is there a way to simplify the thinking process without making it lose its accuracy? Can we summarize philosophy in a brief practical guideline that can be applied in all cases? Whatever your personal situation and constraints, I believe that, in life, one can achieve excellent results by means of a simple rule.

The principle can be stated in just one sentence: what you need to do is to develop a clear objective for the remaining decades of your life and then make all choices, substantial or minor, in accordance with that goal. If you manage to get that right, chances are that your years will become an outstanding success.

Why a short-term approach does not work 

The formula is difficult to apply, but its results can be spectacular. Few people make the effort to establish a definite direction for their life. As a result, they lack the capacity to move consistently towards a specific goal. In the short term, randomness can be pleasurable, but very soon, problems begin to appear:
  1. Money is wasted in useless purchases.The motivation to develop specialized skills is missing.
  2. Entertainment becomes an end it itself and turns quickly into boredom.
  3. Projects that require long-term efforts are abandoned or not undertaken at all.
  4. Erratic behaviour leads to loss of credibility.
  5. Maintenance tasks are neglected or ignored.
  6. In the absence of a proper perspective, excessive risks are taken.
  7. Contradictory desires lead to paralysis.
  8. Past decisions cannot be explained or justified.
  9. In the absence of strong convictions, one cannot connect deeply with other human beings.
The solution is to think long-term 

In contrast to animals, human beings cannot let their instincts guide their actions. While dogs and cats perceive a narrow part of reality, our brains are aware of hundreds of interconnected details, past or present, that are relevant in each situation. We do not have the choice of ignoring our rational nature.

The refusal to think long-term is man's attempt to become less than human. Leading an effective life begins with the selection of rational goals that comprise the whole lifetime of an individual. A vision that reaches into the next decades is the most reliable tool for making optimal choices in the present.

For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living


[Image by goingslo under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

The best 10 blogs about self-development, personal growth, communications skills

  1. John Vespasian
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  3. Life Optimizer
  4. Wisebread
  5. Life Coaches
  6. Unlimited Choice
  7. The Positive Blog
  8. Zen Habits
  9. A certain simplicity
  10. The Happiness Project

Free e-book: How to find peace of mind, the key to stress management

A free e-book presentation of my work “The 10 Principles of Rational Living” can be downloaded in this link