Is All Our Goal Setting Messing with Our Happiness?

I live in a land of achievers. Our nation of immigrants has come scratching and clawing their way to a better life, risking everything to work hard so the next generation has more.

Or at least that’s the narrative. I grew up hearing stories of my immigrant great-grandfather, a Russian Jew who entered Ellis Island alone at nine years old to escape the Czar’s army. He somehow managed to survive living in NYC’s garment district and selling newspapers, relying at least once on the kindness of a stranger’s $5 tip to live through the winter.

As a young man, he moved to South Carolina, married a Gentile, had four kids, the youngest of whom was my paternal grandfather, and opened a successful clothing store. Like many second generation Jewish children, my grandfather, and in turn, my father, went into medicine.

I grew up in a Type A, achievement-oriented house. I was never overtly taught to set goals. It’s just embedded in both my DNA and my conditioning.

In this blog, I regularly share both my process for setting goals and my progress, updating you on how I’m doing with these arbitrary measures I’ve set for gauging my life’s work.  There are plenty of times in life where I haven’t set goals, namely when I was living in Chile as a 20-something and right after I had kids, when the biggest goal I could muster was to survive the day. Even then, I started working with a MLM company shortly after and set goals out the wazoo.

The times when I didn’t have goals feel, in hindsight, like wandering, anchorless times. At the end of my stay in Chile, I became incredibly disillusioned because I was so ready to move back to the US and get on with life.  Never mind that I was busy living it in Santiago.

While goal-setting has helped me put some parameters around a mind that’s particularly good at planning for the future (which is what Martin Seligman says distinguishes us from other primates), has it increased my happiness, as I like to think, or has it promulgated a restlessness, a longing for more, that has undercut my ability to appreciate the here-and-now?

When school starts in two weeks, my boys will go back to school and I’ll be officially not working (because playing cruise director with two kids and a puppy is decidedly NOT not working).

And I’ll be left with time to fill. My first inclination will be to put some parameters around this time, to give myself some goals so that I don’t waste even a half hour of my time.  But is that wise? Continue reading “Is All Our Goal Setting Messing with Our Happiness?”

A Decade of Progress

Yesterday was my birthday. My family and I were sitting around the table, eating takeout subs (which is what I requested), when I asked Mr. ThreeYear what we’d been doing ten years ago. We dialed back the years and realized that was the year of the layoffs, when he’d been working in a job that was not right for him just to pay the bills, battling terrible anxiety and, in hindsight, depression, and I was staying home with our one-year-old.

I also realized that it was ten years ago (on July 4th) that I’d found The Total Money Makeover in the bookstore and we’d started our journey to financial independence.

Twenty Nine

I wonder what I was thinking on my birthday ten years ago. I was 29, facing the last year in my twenties, and was going through one of the most difficult periods of my adult life. But I had hope after reading that book. Continue reading “A Decade of Progress”

Midyear Goals Update 2018

Six glorious months of this year have come and gone, and here we are, halfway through 2018. This year has been an unusual one for the ThreeYears, as it wasn’t too long after I published my 2018 Goals post that we decided to move to North Carolina and began working on how to make location independence happen a year earlier. Honestly, the past few months have been a blur, and I definitely haven’t been regularly checking the goals I set for myself. So, let’s see what I have managed to achieve and set some kind of course for the second half of the year.

My 2018 Goal Sheet

Let’s take a look at my 2018 Goals Sheet. We’ll go section by section, and see how things are going. I’ll grade myself using my arbitrary grading system of whether I feel like I’m making progress or not.
Continue reading “Midyear Goals Update 2018”

Figuring Out the Why

Sometimes we follow paths in our lives for no particular reason–they’re the expected thing to do, or we’ve told ourselves the story of how our lives will look, and so we go about making our lives look like the story.

If you’re starting to ask yourself why you’ve made the decisions you’ve made in life, that might be the first step toward realizing you may want to change some things. Our family definitely got to that point after mounting frustration with our inability to spend enough time with our respective families.

We knew that in order to reach our dreams of location independence we would have to make some big sacrifices, ask some hard questions, and explore scary and unfamiliar options. We’d probably have to live in the land of limbo for awhile. Continue reading “Figuring Out the Why”

2018 Goals Revealed!

Ahh, a brand-new year. There’s something so beautiful in the promise of the next 12 months, yet unfettered by mistakes or regrets. I am, without a doubt, a goal-oriented individual. Mr. ThreeYear eye-rolls, my family cringes, but I absolutely love setting and achieving goals. Last month, when we’d paid off our two outstanding debts, it felt so good to feel the finality of all that hard work and singular focus. And it feels really good not to have those payments coming up this month.

2018 Goals Revealed--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

My 2018 Goal Sheet

As I did last year, I have a Goal Sheet for 2018. And like last year, I’ve followed a similar format to setting up my goals, with one notable exception (or addition, I should say). Continue reading “2018 Goals Revealed!”

How to Set Great Goals for 2018

One thing is clear to me as we ride out the end of 2017: if you set great goals for 2018, it will make a huge difference in what you’re able to accomplish next year. The world we live in today is practically designed to distract us from keeping our eyes on our most important goals and work (for example, as I’m typing this, I’m trying to ignore the loud cartoon my kids are watching across the room). So focus is key. And great goals help you keep your focus, all year long.

How to Set Great Goals for 2018--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

But how do you figure out the best goals to set for the upcoming year? Maybe you have fifteen burning desires that you’d love to achieve, but you don’t know how to prioritize them. Or maybe life is motoring along just fine, and you know you’d probably like to improve something, but you’re not sure what.

I found myself asking those exact same questions several years ago, and here’s what I’ve figured out really works when it’s time to goal set for the upcoming year.

  1. Get crystal clear on your values

It’s hard to prioritize your goals if you haven’t defined your values. What are your values, though? Values are what you judge to be the most important things in your life–the things that deep down, you care about the most. Given that definition, it seems like it would be easy to figure out your values. But it’s not always.

Sometimes, you want to value something that you actually don’t care about that much. For example, when I was in my 20s, I lived in Santiago, and Mr. ThreeYear and I were figuring out where we should go next. I was offered the opportunity to become part of an MBA program where I’d complete half in Chile and half at a great school in Texas. But I declined, ostensibly because I wanted to get into a top-10 MBA school, like Wharton. In the end, though, we moved back to the US and I didn’t go to an MBA school at all. To the shock of almost everyone in my family, I became a stay-at-home mom for seven-and-a-half years. It turns out that what I thought were my values–getting an MBA and climbing the corporate ladder–weren’t really my values at all. I really valued family, which was the real reason I didn’t stay in Chile to start an MBA, because I missed my family back in the US and wanted to go home. And I really valued motherhood, and making sure my children had a secure start in life.

One of the best ways I’ve found to figure out your real values is the “What do I want?” exercise. It’s fairly simple. You take out a sheet of paper, and at the top, write, “What do I want?” Now, all you do is list the things you want. They can be as small and insignificant, or as large and pie-in-the-sky as you want. Anything that comes to mind goes on the list.

When you start this exercise, your first few wants will probably be fairly trivial and perhaps materialistic. Continue reading “How to Set Great Goals for 2018”

End of the Year Goals Update

Happy December 11th! We still have twenty more days of 2017 left, which will fly by for our family, as we’re preparing to spend most of those days in South America, ringing in Christmas and the New Year with our Chilean family.

I thought it appropriate to go ahead and write an end-of-the-year goals post, though, because we have pretty much completed or are in the process of completing our 2017 goals.

End of the Year Goals Update--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

 

Earlier this year, I shared our 2017 goals for this year, and in July, I shared a mid-year update. This blog documents our three year journey to double our net worth (see our latest update here) and become location independent, so we had some pretty specific goals for this year to make that happen.

At the beginning of 2017, I sat down with a piece of plain white printer paper and divided our goals up into a couple of sections. I organized our goals from least specific and time-sensitive to most specific and time-sensitive. It may seem like I repeated myself a bit, but this system works for us. Continue reading “End of the Year Goals Update”

Just Do It

Why does my post title sound like a Nike commercial? Just do it. It’s a kick in the pants, is what it is. As I mentioned in a previous post, I tend to go a bit crazy during the holidays. My extended family was here last week and we ate turkey, played laser tag (even Grandpa!), and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The kids tore the house upside down, much coffee was consumed, and we decorated for Christmas. Eventually, my family left, and we were left with cleanup, the extra turkey and dressing, and a huge disinterest in returning to the routine parts of life that we’re somewhat required to engage in to keep the paychecks coming.

Just Do It--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Mr. ThreeYear and I dragged ourselves back to work, got the kids off to school, and made lists of all that needs to get done before we leave for Chile in just a few weeks.

As I drove to work, I listened to Afford Anything’s latest podcast. In this one, she interviewed A.J. Jacobs, who I momentarily confused with J.D. Vance, until I read his bio and remembered he’d written A Year of Living Biblically, which I’d read several years ago. In that book, Jacobs spent a year following the more obscure commandments of the Old Testament, such as “wear no mixed-fiber clothing” and “dress in all white.” He grew out a beard and posted the ten commandments on the doorway of his apartment, in order to see how his life changed for the better (or worse). He’s engaged in such experiments many times, both as exercises for living a better life and journalistic fodder. One of the takeaways from the interview was that if you want (or need) to change something in your life, just start doing it. Motivation follows action, or something like that.  Continue reading “Just Do It”

Effort, Achievement, and FI

As educators, wrote an article I recently read, we must teach our students the relationship between effort and achievement. That is to say, there is a direct correlation between the effort we expend on a particular endeavor and the likelihood that we’ll have success in said endeavor.

Effort, Achievement, and FI--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

This may sound like a basic concept, but, like so many basic concepts, once you take a minute to unpack it, it has profound implications.

The more effort I put into something, the more likely I am to have good results. 

Many times, I water that advice down in my head. I pretend there’s not a direct correlation between my level of effort and my achievements: “I’ll just run three times this week instead of four. I’ll skip the mid-range run.” Every time I skip a mid-range 6-mile run, my longer 10-12 mile run is super painful and I’m slower. Over an entire training period, that means I’ll run (even) slower on race day.

“I’m tired, so I’ll wake up at 6am instead of 5am. I can still write a blog post.” That’s when I publish 2 posts per week, not three. Over time, I notice my page views slipping and readership going down.

“I’ll just wing it in class, instead of preparing a lesson plan for the week. I can prep before class each day.” My classes are not as good, I’m scrambling for activities to fill the time, and over time, my students don’t make as much progress learning English.

The truth is, consistent, daily effort pays off. It pays off in life, and it pays off (literally) when you’re working towards financial independence.

Making More Money

In the past two and a half years, I have expended a great deal of effort towards my new career–ESOL Teacher. When I started teaching in September of 2015, I knew very little about teaching English. I worked very hard to network with other teachers, observe their lessons, ask questions, and take copious notes. I started a Master’s Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and many nights and weekends were spent reading, on our online classroom, or in class, an hour and a half away. Continue reading “Effort, Achievement, and FI”

Goal Setting, Rat Racers, and Happiness: What’s the Magic Balance?

Goals are great, right? They help us focus, give us purpose, and give us something to work for. But, there can be a dark underbelly of too much goal setting.

When you set a goal in your life, especially a goal for financial independence, it’s easy to let it take over your life. Sometimes, we get so caught up in what’s next that we forget about what’s now. We’re so focused on our future happiness (because why else are we setting the goal, after all?) that we forget about our present happiness. So what’s the magic balance?

Goal Setting, Rat Racers, and Happiness: What's the Magic Balance?--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

I read a book this weekend that brought the idea of getting too caught up in the future into clear focus.

The author, Tal Ben-Shahar, who wrote the book Happier, has come up with a quadrant of four archetypes for how people approach happiness.

Hedonists

Some people enjoy the present, to their future detriment. They live for the moment, indulging in rich food and drink that will later cause weight gain and fatigue. They engage in behaviors that bring them pleasure now, like watching TV, with little regard to future costs, like not having their work done. These people he calls Hedonists. 

Rat Racers

The second archetype subordinates the present for the future. She goes through life thinking, “I’ll work hard and get good grades now, so I can go to a good college.” Then in college, she does the same thing, in order to get a good job. She secures a job she doesn’t like, just to make a lot of money and buy fancy cars and houses. She subjugates her present happiness, year after year, for some mythical future happiness that never arrives. This type of person he calls a Rat Racer.  Continue reading “Goal Setting, Rat Racers, and Happiness: What’s the Magic Balance?”