We’ve talked a lot about the importance of making sure your actions line up with the primary mission of your life. One way I am able to do that is constantly remember what that mission is by developing main life goals and lesser life goals.
[mainbodyad]As a young man, I spent a great deal of time identifying the six life goals I wanted to attain above everything else; the things that would actually make me happy (not the things society tells you that you should want). I then identified six lesser life goals; things that I would like to accomplish but that were really a garnish, a nice added touch to a life well lived. I’ve never outright told many people what these twelve items are, though I did briefly touch on the general gist of them when I discussed the William Parrish birthday speech in a post called What Do You Want Out of Life?.
I created a diagram that represented a visualization of life; the 477,700 or so effective hours the average man is given before death. Around the edges, I placed the six primary life goals and six lesser life goals, mapping a web from each goal to the others, since they could reinforce and strengthen each other to create what Charlie Munger would call a lollapalooza effect where the sum of the parts was greater than the individual components.
I then wrote a short, accompanying description detailing the specific metrics that would be required before a life goal was considered “achieved”. Just like the sphere grid system in Final Fantasy X, my objective was to unlock each achievement as I went through life having fun, spending my time doing what I love, and helping other people as I had benefitted on my own journey from the writings of men and women who had come before me.
When I wake up in the morning, my job is to make sure to invest my time and money in a way that I am a little bit closer to achieving the spheres on the diagram by evening when I get into bed. Over time, the nature of compounding does the rest. When a life goal is attained, and as long as it remains achieved, it is lit up and colored.
Note that these are truly life goals are not to be small things like, “Lose 10 pounds” or “Pay off the Visa card”. They are the crown jewels in your life; the things that you look back on and say, “It is good” as you lay on your death bed and reflect on your time on Earth.
An Example of How You Might Use the Life Goals Diagram In Your Own Life
Charlotte is 35 years old. She has six primary life goals and six lesser life goals that would bring her to a point where she could call her life a success; where she can wake up and say, “I don’t want anything more”.
Charlotte’s six primary life goals are:
- To get married to the love of her life
- To have three children
- To establish a chain of successful bakeries that serves as a creative outlet for her passion, as well as generating enough income to provide a very comfortable lifestyle for her and her family; to her, this means an income of $25,000 per month pre-tax and no debt.
- To see, experience, and travel the world, visiting at least two new places every year.
- To have a lasting impact for good in the lives of others by launching a food pantry non-profit that feeds the poor and struggling. The institution should be successful enough to last beyond her own lifetime.
- To develop a hybrid rose breed that is recognized throughout the world as an accomplishment, eventually becoming a staple in many gardens
On the primary goal front, the list is intensely personal. Few people may know about Charlotte’s passion for engineering rose breeds. It certainly isn’t going to show up in a career handbook, nor is it going to have a big influence on her standard of living. But it matters to her. Achieving it would allow Charlotte to better express herself and leave something beautiful in the world, which are among her hidden motivations. She should never let someone tell her this goal is “stupid” or try to distract her when she’s set aside time for that goal.
By understanding her life goals, Charlotte can be more rational about decisions and do what will make her happy in the long-run. If someone offered her a job as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, if she has designed her list correctly, she should turn the job down without ever looking back or regretting the decision. I don’t know how many times I’ve said it but it needs to be repeated: Your goal is not to end up with the highest net worth possible. It is to end up with the highest net worth you can amass consistent with doing what you love and supporting the lifestyle you desire. Money is a tool, just like a hammer or a screwdriver. It is not a goal unto itself. It is only useful for how much utility it can bring you. It is not a god to be worshipped.
Leveraging Your Life Goals to Reinforce Each Other
Also, notice that Charlotte’s life goals are designed in a way they can reinforce each other. If I were Charlotte, I would do several things to leverage the goals against one another:
- Start the bakery business and then form the food pantry 501(c)3.
- Donate all excess product to the non-profit, taking the tax-write off at the bakery and funding the food pantry with foodstuff that can be given away that night.
- Raise money through the non-profit to establish a greenhouse, in which to carry out research during spare time on the rose hybrid
- Attract other successful business owners to the non-profit board to develop relationships and get advice on how to grow and expand the bakeries
- The bakeries, food pantry, and travel should put Charlotte in a position to meet a lot of people. Finding a spouse shouldn’t be difficult.
What about the lesser life goals? These can include achievements that would be awesome and that you desire but that aren’t integral to your life plan. For Charlotte, the lesser goals include:
- Write a cookbook, get it published, and make The New York Times bestseller list
- Learn to play the piano
- Own 100 rental units in apartment buildings and townhouses with no debt against the properties
- Read the holy book of every major religion from cover-to-cover
- Climb Mount Everest
- Speak French fluently
Notice that some of Charlotte’s lesser life goals are more ambitious than her primary life goals! It is more difficult to own 100 rental units in apartment buildings and townhouses completely debt-free than it is to start a non-profit food pantry. But the primary goals are about personal happiness, the lesser goals about things that you’d like to achieve but aren’t core to your life plan.
Actually having the diagram helps you make major decisions because you can always ask yourself the question: Will this course of action get me closer to or will it take me further from the life goals I’ve set for myself? This approach is the reason I have no regrets. Using it, you go through life with your eyes wide open and aware of the consequences of your decisions, to the degree that is possible.