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Charting a path to success

As the end of the year looms closer, I'm starting to think about what my objectives and goals for the next calendar year ought to be. But no matter the objectives, they will merely remain a wish list and a dream unless there is purposeful action to achieve them.

And that purposeful action is comprised of three key things.

Every single action that we take in every second of our lives has an effect on who we will be in the future. On top of that, every single thing happening in the environment we are in also has an effect on who we will be in the future, but those are things that we cannot control. At best, we can influence and change aspects of our environments to be conducive to our success or we can move into an altogether new environment that is more conducive. But for the purpose of this post, I'll hold the environment as something we don't control.

When every single action that we take and everything that we do in every single second has an influence on our future, we ought to be more deliberate about, well, everything that we do.

But this is an astoundingly overwhelming task if we think of it as evaluating every single action that we take on its future consequences. We will give up such an effort long before we even try. And rightly so. It is impractical. It would be like making a decision every second while driving as to whether we ought to continue moving straight or consider other alternative routes. We can't drive like that.

This is where concrete goals come in. When we define a concrete goal that can be unambiguously measured, then we can revisit it at frequent intervals to see whether we are still on track and course-correct when we are off-course. This is like driving with a map. Rather than evaluating all possible routes every second, we follow a path for a while, and check the map (or a compass) every few minutes to see if we are on track and course correct when we are not.

I used to think that these two are enough, but this misses the third key aspect. Which is the overarching principles - the rules - the values. These are fairly static things that define us. We don't steal from others because that is not what people like us do.

Without these, we can become overly focused on achieving the goals and lose track of why those goals are important in the first place and how certain ways of achieving goals could actually be detrimental to us in the long run.

These are the equivalent of traffic rules and road etiquette. We drive on one side of the road and overtake on the other. We stick to the lane and signal when making a turn or when changing lanes. Barring which, it might be plausible to reach our goal (and faster), but it vastly increases the possibility of an accident, thus hindering our chances at taking on further goals.

So, the three key things are - every single action is important, and we can guide every single action better with concrete goals, and we can ensure long-term pursuance of these and other goals by staying true to our values and principles.

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