Goal Setting Framework

This post contains a comprehensive goal setting framework to guide you through the entire life cycle of your goal. This is a conglomerate of research from super impressive people (who I cite along the way), melded with my own perspective about goals.

What is goal setting and goal achieving?

Setting a goal is the desire, aim, and plan to get from Reality A to Reality B

Achieving a goal is the successful actualization of Reality B

The purpose of goal setting and goal achieving

The purpose of setting a goal

  • To give movement, direction, and flow to your life
  • Engaging with goals allows for a unique flavor of depth in the participation of life 
    • Eg 1: shooting hoops aimlessly with a friend is fun, and has its place. But playing a basketball game of 1-on-1 (with concrete aims) creates a different level of intensity, rigor, and engagement
    • Eg 2: doodling on paper is fun. But if you commit to producing and completing an art piece, that creates a higher level of intensity, rigor, and engagement
  • Setting small goals can help move you towards a bigger goal (ie your life vision)
    • Eg if part of your life vision is to own a neighborhood bakery, for this goal setting framework a small goal that could help you get there might be to take a class on honing the art of the cinnamon roll

The purpose of achieving a goal

  • In order to manifest your desires
    • This is effectively the power to mold your external reality, and to real-ize your vision for your life
  • In order to cultivate the following positive feelings: 
    • Confidence that you can follow through and create what you want
    • The satisfaction of completing what you set out to do
    • The personal growth required to make the goal happen. As Ray Dalio puts it: “the things we’re striving for are just the bait. Struggling to get them forces us to evolve”
    • The fulfillment that comes from further developing the unique gift you have to give to the world

Traps to watch out for in your goal setting framework

  • Overcommitting to a goal that’s coming from the wrong place
    • Eg the desire to prove your dad wrong, or validate your self worth
  • Overcommitting to a goal that you have outgrown
    • Eg if you’ve committed to running a marathon, but then your partner becomes pregnant. It’s time to reprioritize
    • Pursuing outgrown goals is painful. It feels like a mis-use of time and mis-alignment of desire
  • Goals that are too small
    • This is an act of suppressing your actual desire in the fear that you can’t attain it
      • As Paul Graham wrote: “It’s a dangerous skill to be good at convincing yourself that you don’t want things you worry you might not get. Useful in some areas perhaps, but disastrous in others.”
  • Goals that are too big
    • If a goal is too big to move towards, you won’t achieve it. There is a place for this, but it can also hurt your confidence
  • Goals that are too vague
    • It can be easy to create a vague “Reality B” in order to hide from the failure of not achieving your goal. As Peterson says above: “if the goal is really fuzzy, you’re not sure when you fail and then you can fool yourself.”
  • Having too many goals at once
    • This dilutes your focus and your chance of achieving any of your goals.
    • I can also overwhelm you
  • Losing yourself in the illusion that goal-achievement = happiness
    • The ability to achieve goals is a marvelous tool to build the life you want. It can grant you power, freedom, and fun. But this is entirely distinct from happiness
      • You can be a happy billionaire or an unhappy billionaire. You can be a happy pay-check-to-paychecker or a miserable one
    • There is a real satisfaction that comes with goal achievement. But you can get stuck constantly chasing the next goal, never appreciating the beauty of life right now
  • Getting stuck in the Law of Attraction mentality
    • Eg imagining yourself at the finish line, and visualizing it every day. But failing to take action
    • This method has its place, and may work at times. But on its own is unreliable

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Start-to-finish method for goals

1. Goal setting framework. Pick a goal

  • Align your goal with a natural desire
    • It may be a step towards your greater life vision (eg learning to grow your own crops so that you can start a permaculture farm one day)
    • Or it may be a random desire you feel called to pursue (eg getting your chess rating to 1200)
    • Here is a tool, created by Chris Sparks, to help you compare possible goals. Tweak the metrics to your liking
  • Consider that one reason to set a goal is to improve your present reality. 
    • You may be in a spontaneous, untethered life period, and setting a goal might only make you feel more stressed and cramped right now. So maybe don’t set one!
    • But if setting a goal makes you feel more inspired, directed, and action-oriented right now, that’s a good sign. You want a goal setting framework that feels good
  • Make your goal SMART
    • Specific
      • Not just ‘more.’ How many?
    • Measurable
      • Make sure you can quantify your progress
      • Is there a clear success-fail binary of if you achieved it?
    • Attainable
      • Make the goal within reach
    • Relevant
      • Ensure your goal is the right one for you at this time
    • Time-bound
      • By when
      • Otherwise the goal becomes a soft intention that melts into the rest of your life
  • Write your goal down
    • So that you can check on your progress at the start, at the end, and throughout
    • Writing down your goals will make it real. Otherwise you don’t have a concrete goal setting framework, you have a hazy, overwriteable thought floating in your head

2. Anticipate roadblocks ahead of time

  • Look at your past goal failures
    • For each one, ask why you failed 5 times in a row to look for the root cause
      • Eg I did not achieve my 5-minute mile goal. Why? Because I was training on an improper track size. Why? Because I didn’t do proper enough research ahead of time on the size of my training situation. Why? Because I figured that overpreparing was a waste of time and that I’d figure it out  
    • Implement this learning into your next goal
      • Eg for me, I may take extra precautions to do preparatory research ahead of time for my next goal. Instead of my default assumption that “I’ll figure it out when I get there!”
  • Anticipate other ways this goal could fail
    • Think of as many ways as possible that you mail fail at achieving this goal
    • Prepare in advance for each of those roadblocks

3. Pick a route to get to your goal

  • Strategically pick the best route from A to B you can
    • You can ask for friends for advice
    • And don’t forget to use google!
    • And if you lack the skills to take a certain route, you can learn those skills first
  • Break the route up into bite-sized chunks, knowing you can only take one step at a time
    • As Will Smith puts it: “You don’t try to build a wall. You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say ‘I’m gonna lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid,’ and you do that every single day, and soon you have a wall.”
  • It’s okay to not know the full route. You only ever need to know the next step in front of you.
    • Take the first step. And then you’ll see what the next step is once you’re there
  • Remember that you can change your route any step along the way! The route is a tool to give you a next place to step, it is not fixed
  • When you reach milestones along the way, celebrate!

4. Prioritize your actions

  • Pareto’s Principle says that 80% of your progress will come from 20% of your tasks
    • As Blaz Kos writes in the above article: 
      • “80 % of your sales come from 20 % of your clients.
      • 80% of your profits comes from 20 % of your products or services.
      • 80 % of decisions in a meeting are made in 20 % of the time.
      • Fixing the top 20 % of the most reported bugs also eliminates 80 % of related errors and crashes.
      • You wear 20 % of your clothes 80 % of the time and so on”
  • Learn what your 20% are for your goal

5. Daily execution towards your goal

  • Eat the frog. When you know what tasks to do, make sure that your first task every day is the most important one
  • Use pomodoros (or other productivity tools) to work with deep focus
  • Learn to prioritize your life to make time for the steps needed to achieve your goals
  • Action creates movement and momentum. It will give you greater clarity on what you actually want, and will open up new opportunities
    • Even if your action isn’t perfect, it’s still helpful. If you take a step Northeast, but your goal was to get North, you are still closer than you were. And you have perspective and experience you didn’t have before

6. Continually stoke desire for achieving your goal

7. Review along the way

  • As you’re completing tasks towards your goal, check in with yourself on if it’s working
  • Is this even the right goal?
  • Is your strategy working? 
    • If yes, then keep going!
    • If no, either you need to keep going, or try a different strategy
      • When things aren’t working, you will fall back on your desire, commitment, obsession, focus, and resilience to keep moving towards your goal

8. Supplement with Law of Attraction

  • Remember, with goal setting you’re trying to get from Reality A (your current reality) to Reality B (your desired reality). Now imagine what Reality B is actually like and take it on
    • Once you get to Reality B, what will that version of you feel like? How will they act, carry themselves, and identify? 
    • Learn to become the person of Reality B
      • Eg. I highly value my health and wellness. So I stretch and exercise every day, and I am conscious of what I eat. Imagine if I woke up one day and was 100 lbs heavier, my energy was dreadful, and my body felt like ass. You can bet that I’d do a sweep of the kitchen towards the foods I’d want to eat, and I would get into an exercise regimen, and eventually I’d return to the body health I have now. This example demonstrates that if you put the Reality B mindset into the person in Reality A, they will naturally find themselves back in Reality B
  • Surround yourself with people who live in Reality B (whether friends or content creators)
    • Absorb their consciousness actively (through asking for coaching, advice, or support) or passively (just by being in their presence you’ll take on their habits and mindset)
    • Social network theory indicates that we absorb the habits, health, and mindset of our friends, our friends’ friends, and even our friends’ friends’ friends

9. Remember to keep balance and perspective for your goal setting framework

  • If you achieved your goal, hooray! Celebrate!
    • Make sure to touch into gratitude. For everyone and everything that helped you get here. And to acknowledge the grace and luck that played a part
  • If you did not achieve your goal, make sure to harvest what did work and didn’t work. Acknowledge you didn’t get where you set out to get. And also celebrate! You may not be at Reality B, but you are also no longer at Reality A, because of the actions you took
  • Note that all progress helps you gain confidence. Little wins are huge. For your next goal you can take on a little more or dream a little bigger
  • Also remember you can change your goals at any time! Goals aren’t concrete, undeniable laws. Goals are all rough-drafts. They are just thoughts. If they aren’t serving you any more, you can always let go of them and make new ones, or not. 


There you have it! I hope this goal setting framework was is valuable for your relationship with goals. Have fun 🙂

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Thanks Eric Wu and Noe Khalfa for providing edits on this post <3