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3 Reasons Why I Think Making it Public is a Bad Idea

micOne thing I keep reading over and over again about goal-setting is that it is important to make your goals known to other people – that way they can hold you accountable to them. One way it has been recommended to do this is making it public: telling every person you meet, posting about it on social media (and posting about your progress), and/or writing on your blog or website about the goal.

I think all of these are terrible ideas.

Here’s 3 reasons why:

1. It’s all talk, no action

Sure, it’s really great to get excited about a project or goal and then run around telling everyone you know so that they can be excited with you. And ideally, this means that when you run into one of these people three months later at Earthfare and they ask you how your beekeeping extravaganza is going, you’ll be able to say “I have a whole acre of beehives!” and not “Oh…that old thing…uh, that was just a couple of days I wanted to do that, it kinda fizzled out once I remembered I am terrified of bees.”

I’ve done this often enough, and honestly I am tired of telling people about an idea I have, only to have later moved on while they still think I’ve really got my shit together this time. Talking about something I’m pumped about, just to get myself pumped more and, you know, hopefully eventually propel myself to action? It hardly ever works.

When I’ve got something going on, when I’m in the thick of it, perhaps that’s when I can start talking about it. Because now it’s real, it’s tangible, it’s not just another idea I’ve had this week.

2. Involving others to that extent makes it about how people view me, not how I view myself

Suddenly, I start relying upon the feedback I get for the idea, for the progression of the project, and for the finished product, as the only reason I am doing what I am doing. “Ooh, how many ‘likes’ did I get for my new mailbox garden or the eighth-inch I’ve gained in my biceps??” and “Oh man, SO many people have shared my video on what I’ve learned about soldering, it feels good.”

These are NOT bad thoughts to have. Almost all of us crave positive public opinion to some degree or another (and, obviously, making a video about soldering techniques is a great way to create a deliverable). But if this feedback is the only driving force behind something we’re working on, we seriously need to reexamine our priorities.

In my own case, I know if I let people’s opinions take over as my sole driving force, I really lose any motivation at all and start wishing nobody knew about a project, because it’s become all about them and not about me and what I want to accomplish for myself.

Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting feedback; likewise there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make people happy: writing a book is helpful and/or entertaining for people; planting a garden makes people smile when they come over to your house; working out gains a community of like-minded individuals with similar interests with whom you can swap interesting tips and strategies with. Just don’t forget to find the drive for what you do primarily within yourself, or you and your project will most likely fade.

3. If accountability is needed, it works way better on a small scale

The entire world does not need to be your accountability system. However, that doesn’t mean accountability is bad. Instead, try having one friend, maybe two.  An accountability buddy will be much better help than everybody you’ve ever known.

Accountability is a symbiotic relationship. Not only will an accountability buddy help you stay on task, but you likewise help them. They hold you to the goal or goals you have chosen, which means you want to make sure that you are very intentional with the ideas you pick to become goals. They can help you map out how exactly to accomplish these goals so you have steps to follow and mile markers to, as you reach them, report back to your accountability buddy. Because accountability is usually one-on-one, your partnership will push you to accomplish your goals not for shallow displays of public recognition, but for true praise (or true critique, especially if your follow-through was lacking that week) from one person who is as invested in your projects and goals as you are. And you do the same for them.

Still think making it public is a good or even better idea?  Had a good experience with making it public, one-on-one accountability, or another way of keeping yourself on task?  Need help starting an accountability partnership?  Leave a comment!

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A Year of Goals

how-to-set-goalsIn order for something to get accomplished, you must know exactly what the goal is.  Yes, if you don’t have specific goals, some things in life will happen on their own.  However, setting concrete goals are important for two main reasons.

First of all, when you write down your goals and have them in viewing distance constantly, it is easier to remember on a daily basis to work on them.  Put them on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on the steering wheel, set them as your desktop background, wherever you know you find yourself looking at often.  They will be a constant reminder to go about your day with intention.

Secondly, having written down your goals for any amount of time allows you to go back later and see how you’ve been growing and accomplishing things.  Once you see yourself making progress, accomplishing specific goals that you can check off or cross through, empowerment will seep into your body – you’ll be motivated to keep on, and to set even more goals for yourself, perhaps bigger ones you were scared to set before.

My challenge for you is to make a list of goals for the next fiscal year.   …you know, the next 12 months.  Don’t forget to avoid making ambiguous goals:

Ambiguous goal: learn blues guitar.

Concrete goal: learn 5 songs by Jimi Hendrix and 5 by John Lee Hooker on the electric guitar by January 1st.

If your goal is simply to learn blues guitar, you will waffle around for months, switching between messing around on your guitar and pacing your house wondering who in the world would ever want to teach an unmotivated person such as yourself blues guitar.  Yes, often you do need to brainstorm a list of more ambiguous items before narrowing them down to a final, concrete list.  So, the progression being, if you want to learn 10 blues guitar songs on the guitar by certain artists on a certain guitar by a certain time say, two months from today, then that allows you to set stepping stones along the way.  Two months, that’s about 8 weeks.  That means a little more than a song a week.  How about a new song every five days?

My friends Blake and Matt have been making their own goals lists: Matt’s is for this next year, Blake’s is an ongoing life list.  And now, here’s mine as of a couple of days ago – it still needs some narrowing down as far as concreteness goes, but it’s definitely workable from here:

Projects, General

– Work at least 20 hours a week on College Rebellion from now through July
– Dig 2-3 more terrace beds in the yard and ready for early spring planting
– Grow all vegetables needed with spring, summer, and fall plantings

Writing, General

– Write one letter a week
– Finish NaNoWriMo (write a 50,000+-word novel in 30 days) in November
– Write the second draft of my 2009 NaNoWriMo project

Reading

– Read 8-16 fiction books
– Read 3-10 nonfiction books
– Start a casual book-review blog in January

Academics, General

– Complete online college courses in: Animal Behavior, Kitchen Science, Neuro Science
– Re-work through All the Math You’ll Ever Need by the end of 2013
– Work through Maths from Scratch for Biologists by the end of April
– Apply to Mayland College / ace their entrance exams
– Begin pursuing the rest of my transfer diploma in science

Work and Money

– Continue to study and practice new ways of getting better at being a chef
– Continue picking up more supplementary house-sitting and gardening gigs
– Re-listen to the Dave Ramsey lectures on saving money
– Save every little extra bit of money a month and DON’T spend it all on books

3 Steps to Getting Stuff Done

As an autodidact, you have to structure the majority of your life and education yourself.  And this freedom, as beneficial as it is, can get get overwhelming and quickly cause you to lose focus.  Not only do you have to come up with your own to-do lists, structures, schedules, deadlines, etc. – you have to do them, and then you have to check behind yourself and track your progress in a way that you can tell you are moving closer to your goals.  I don’t know about you, but I find myself getting distracted from doing all of that;  essentially, you are assuming the roles of student, all your professors, and sundry record-keeping faculty at a University.

Life is a lot easier if all you need to do is get up and do what you’re told – but that’s not what we signed up for as College Rebels, is it?  Not really.

Figuring out how to organize your life in a way that will help you get motivated and stay focused is essential to being a successful autodidact.  Figuring out how to do that without taking up all the time you could be doing other things, and without contracting a constant headache, is your goal.  Fortunately, I have figured out a fairly simple three-step formula that only takes a couple hours a month for the deep planning, and then a few minutes a week tops to organize smaller to-do lists for optimum productivity.

The key is prioritization:

1. Write it all out.  Just write down everything that comes to you that you need and want to do in the immediate future.  These are things that have probably been floating around in your head as needing to get done in the next day, week, and month at least.  Think of it as a big brainstorming session: just get it all out there and don’t hold back: if it helps you get the juices flowing, feel free to put down “join the circus” and “teach in Senegal”, but just be aware that the next step will ask you to narrow down from five-year goals to ones you know you reasonably will accomplish in the next month or two.

2. Narrow down what is really important. Depending on time frames, others’ dependence on you, your own immediacy, and other such factors, pick between 3 and 5 top priorities for the next month or so.  Oftentimes, even 5 could still be spreading yourself too thin; just be honest with yourself and try to keep it minimal.  An example:

– Wedding planning with Emily
– 35 hours/wk at Best Buy
– Training for the 10k in 3 weeks
– Cooking through all Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks
– Keeping a blog about the cooking project

This is not a step, but: set realistic daily, weekly, and monthly goals.  The operative word here is REALISTIC!! Remember when you are narrowing down these 3-5 projects for the month that you have other things during the day and week that you do, such as taking a shower, reading a book with a cup of coffee in the morning, having a movie night with your friends on the second Thursday of every month, playing guitar “as-needed,” etc.   If you’re like me, you might forget these things while making your list – and then become emotionally bogged down later when you realize you should have allowed for much more flexibility in the name of sanity.

This process can be done as many times as you need to. It may need to be done only once a month, or once every two months; or every other week, every week… it really does not matter, as long as you stay productive and sane.

3. Write down the ultimate goal next to each priority on your 3-5 item list.  This is the key to keeping your motivation up: the reasons are the focus.  Here are examples from the previous list and from one of my own lists from a while back:

– Wedding planning with Emily = BECAUSE I want her wedding to go down like she wants it to
– 30 hours/wk at Best Buy = BECAUSE I need money so I can travel to Thailand and work with elephants
– Training for the 10k = BECAUSE I want to be in shape, run and finish a race, and be better at running in general; BECAUSE I want to work up to running marathons by the time I am 26
– Cooking through Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks = BECAUSE I want to know how to cook many different things and therefore have the capacity to go to culinary school if I decide I want to
– Housecleaner work-trade = BECAUSE I can help out the owner of the hostel in the summer season and so I can have somewhere to stay till I leave for NY
– Sudoku Professor = BECAUSE I need to support myself, and to help out the family business
– Life Without College = BECAUSE I am passionate about this subject, want to get the word out, and now I have a following to stay loyal to!
– Novel in 30 days = BECAUSE I love writing, would like to get better, and I am very inspired in Ashland, Oregon

Going through this 3-step process works for me because I have goals that need to be concrete, and in front of my face; if goals are just floating around aimlessly in my brain, I cannot possibly focus on them. I am also an extremely flexible person – if I don’t watch myself, I will simply float off in whatever direction the wind is blowing (i.e., playing guitar all the time).

Also, going through this process and making these lists every month or so keeps me grounded, while at the same time still allowing for spontaneity and plans to change on the daily and weekly levels.

That being said, I often like to make daily and sometimes weekly to-do or to-accomplish lists that are based off the monthly “Master” list.  This way I can remind myself to do all the little things:

– Do laundry
– Write for 1/2 an hour in the morning
– Write for 1/2 an hour at night
– Go to work 10-5
– Wash dishes
– Call Emily while cooking dinner
– Spend 1/2 hour answering emails
– Write long email to Patrick the Kindle Expert
– Finish reading “Out of Africa”!!

That kind of thing.

What processes to motivate and focus yourself have worked for you?  What have almost worked, but needed tweaking, or definitely not worked?  Do you need to organize, motivate, and focus yourself in a more structured way, or are you more productive when things aren’t so set-in-stone and you can run with your spontaneity?

Series: The 3 P’s

From my observation, there are three kinds of people in this world:

  • Those who know what they like to do, of course: but don’t know anything they would really like to settle on, or study intensely
  • Those who are super, crazily passionate about 10,000 different things and don’t know if they could ever settle on one
  • Those who know the exact one thing they want and are ready to go and do it.

Chances are, you are one of the first two. If you fall under the latter one instead, congratulations!  (I am seething with jealousy.)

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The next three posts are going to be a series called “The Three P’s”: Purpose, Passion, and Perseverance, in that order.

Purpose will be directed towards the first type: those who are feeling pressure to “grow up” and pick something to be passionate about, but just don’t really care in the face of just loving the life they lead everyday as a perfectly justified person that does stuff.

Passion will address those “ADHDesque” folks who like everything they do so much that they absolutely cannot imagine picking one thing to do for the rest of their lives (which is the group I identify most strongly with). It will help narrow down different areas of interest till there are just 2 or 3 that you can work on at a given time.

Perseverance is for the last group of people, as well as everyone else after they’ve read the first two entries. It will cover identifying concrete goals, reaching milestone accomplishments, and sticking to what you are doing even when you have nobody behind you pushing.

This series is loosely based off of “The Three D’s” in my new e-book, Life Without College: The Method – which is available in beta till 4/24/14.  Please contact me if you would like to stay updated on its official release around 12/01/14!

We also now have a Facebook group called College Rebels | Beyond College | Life Without College | Lifelong Learners.  Please join us now to share self-education resources (blogs, articles, opportunities, websites, etc.) ideas, stories, advice, and more with a great community of like-minded individuals!

Stay tuned this weekend, folks!