Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

As a Christmas present to my brothers, I wrote an entire first draft of a book. In it, I laid out the lessons I’ve found to be the most valuable in my life; and I hoped— if nothing else — that reading it would make my brothers think of their own.

As a result of writing this book, however, I learned yet a few things:

  • Doing an experiment is easier than committing to a goal. 
  • Doing something for someone else creates a great deal of purpose and motivation. 
  • Having a deadline creates a sense of urgency and the motivation to bring it to completion. 

Prior to this first draft of the book, I had been trying to write something for almost a year, but with no luck. I had some ideas, but I could never seem to get far in the writing process. I couldn’t commit, and I was frustrated about it (perhaps I was just scared). 

When I got the idea to write to my brothers, however, I was immediately filled with the drive to make it happen, and I did it all in 3 months. This is what I learned in detail:

If You Can’t Decide, Experiment

If you’re unsure about this whole goal-setting idea, and/or are frustrated by it, you can try conducting experiments instead.

Big goals are often thought to be long-term, as something you have to stick with for a very long time. This might be true, but setting such goals will only work if you already know what you would like to achieve. 

Most people don’t, however; they’re unsure about what to do, and consequently they never commit to any big goals either.

What people could do, however, is to conduct experiments. Because an experiment is just that, an experiment, and it removes a lot of the pressure that traditional goal setting impose.

An experiment allows you to discover what you would like to achieve. 

The idea is to make a short commitment (this could be anywhere from 3–6 months, but I prefer 3) and evaluate after the experiment’s completion. 

After 3 months of total commitment, one of two things are going to happen:

  • You will either discover that you liked the thing you chose, and decide to do another 3 months. 
  • Or, you will discover that it wasn’t something for you, still learn a ton, and decide to do a new experiment.

3 months isn’t that long, but you can learn a lot and even achieve some success in this short amount of time.

You’re life is long. You have time to spend 3 months on something, even if you figure out it wasn’t something for you (and this wouldn’t be a waste of time either, since you would have learned a lot). 

Make It About Something More Than Yourself

If you struggle to find motivation, think of the people you can do it for. 

  • Who could I help?
  • Who could benefit from my achievement?
  • In who’s life could I make a difference?

Doing this will give you a higher purpose, as doing things for others is a deeply meaningful quest. 

I had my brothers, who I deeply care about. The book wasn’t for me, it was for them.

Deadlines Equals Urgency

Even though you might have the desire to achieve something, for someone else, you might not have the drive to actually make it happen. With no deadline, you can just postpone action until a later occasion. But later might never come, because you can always procrastinate if you want to.

With a deadline, however, you have to complete it by some given amount of time. And the best deadlines aren’t purely arbitrary.

Take my case: I had Christmas eve. I wanted to give the book as a present, and to have it finished any later than December 24th, would have meant that I had failed. Consequently, I worked to make sure I had it completed by then.

Effective deadlines are often social and/or economical in their nature. 

  • Social deadline. i.g., making a promise to someone.
  • Economical deadline. i.g., making an up-front investment that you must uphold.

In Conclusion

The bells recently rang in the new year, and the majority of people celebrating had a goal or two in mind. However, we both know that few of them will complete their New Year’s resolutions. Luckily, we know how to complete ours.

You can stick to something for 3 months, just make sure you do it for someone else and that you have something pressuring you to have it completed. 

I wish you the best of luck with whatever you’re doing, whether that’s a New Year’s resolution or not. 

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