Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Simple Tasks First, Life Goals Later

Why is it so bloody hard to fulfill our life goals?

Well, here's a simple experiment. Close your eyes. Imagine your life in 10 years' time.

Boss of your own business? Married with two kids? Sun-bathing in the Caribbeans?

Dream on! Chances are, you'll end up way off the mark. Maybe getting closer, but need more time.

Now, here's another experiment. Just look back at last week. Did you complete the routine tasks you set out to do?

Got into office/class on time every morning? Stopped fiddling with your phone while driving? Cut down to one boba milk tea per week?

Such easy-peasy goals But we didn't quite keep to them, right? RIGHT?!

 Study Goal Week #1: Read a chapter of Jurisprudence without dozzz...

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That's the irony of life right there. We have such grandiose plans about our distant future. And yet, we fail miserably to keep to the simple promises we make on a daily basis.

Worse still, we never fail to come up with a million and one excuses.

Overslept and miss the rush hour by 5 minutes (you snoozed your phone alarm 3 times!). Mom called (she just wanted to triple-confirm what time you'll be dropping by Aunty Helen to pick up CNY cookies). Free vouchers expiring this week (if you stopped buying so much tea, you won't have free vouchers to redeem).

If you can make up excuses for trivial failings, imagine how imaginative you can be to justify your major failures.

Truth is, there's a strong correlation between completing simple tasks and fulfilling your BIG goals. Efficiency is a habit. It's a matter of discipline. Commitment requires consistency. If you break a single link in the chain, eventually the entire chain will collapse. Likewise, if you compromise on the small stuff, eventually you'll compromise the BIG stuff too.

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So what's the solution? Well, for a start, make a list of simple tasks to complete each week. And keep to them.

No exceptions, no excuses.

Just do it, no matter what happens. Start with the simplest tasks (making sure no dirty laundry piles up more than a week). A task that can be easily achievable if you set flexible goals (wash your clothes every 4-5 days). A task that won't be unmet even if some unexpected event turns up (if you got caught up with work on the 5th day, there's still 1-2 days of allowance).

Often times, we fail to complete even the simplest tasks because we set up rigid goals (wash laundry every Sunday). Not only does rigidity encourages procrastination (no need to think about laundry for six days - yay!), but it also increases the risk of being unraveled by a single unforeseen event (oh no - best friend's wedding this Sunday!). Sounds silly, but look back and be honest with yourself - we fail to meet most of our goals simply because we set them up for failure.

Goals should be flexible. Or rather, goals must be specific (no unwashed laundry more than a week), but the methods to achieving such goals can be flexible (get rich enough to hire a full-time maid).

Once you've completed a task, then move on to another. Build towards harder and harder goals. Eventually, once you get your short-term goals right, your long-term goals will fall into place too.

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