Here are a few vague goals I’ve had in the back of my mind, with frustratingly little progress:
1) Learn Russian
2) Meditate effectively
3) Cook more interesting meals
4) Play piano more
Is it any wonder that I don’t have much to show for them? They’re not specific enough. Still, I came across Bloom and was really taken with the idea: creating an aspirational experience digitally, all through your mobile phone. You can select inspiring images and even add some music.
I spent quite some time adding relevant images and music: for example, for my “Learn Russian” goal, beautiful pictures of St. Basil’s Cathedral and music by Russian folk legend Vladimir Vysotsky. “Great,” I thought. “I’m on my way”!
Well, not so much. The app popped up random reminders (you also have the option to schedule them at varying frequencies), but I didn’t often act on them. I fell into the same nebulous “Yeah…I should get around to that sometime” mentality. I’m still drawn to Bloom: it’s a lovely and well-designed app, and it probably works better for different types of goals. But I needed a different approach for my own, so I moved on to Plan B.
First, I changed the language around the goals:
1) Learn 100 new Russian vocabulary words each month
2) Sit down to meditate for at least five minutes at 10 PM every day
3) Try four new recipes every month
4) (Re)learn two piano pieces in 2013
SMART goals FTW! Now, here’s an app that has been a great tool for working toward these goals:
It’s Lift, and I’ve been using it for about six months now. You can check in to habits, earn streaks, take notes, and view trends. I don’t care for the lack of privacy settings – I use only my initials on the app – but the design is clean and efficient. I started off very small, with a “Take multivitamin” habit. That’s now well-established, so I’m now working toward the bigger goals with very specific actions, e.g. “Study Russian vocab on commute” and “Practice piano 20 minutes.” These are simple, repeatable, and leave minimal room for excuses. I can’t overstate the importance of defining the overall goal and the tactical approach, and I’ll be reassessing these Lift habits to ensure that I succeed.
As a kid, I was fortunate enough to have people constantly pushing me to achieve more. Nowadays I need to focus on habit-building in the short term to build intrinsic motivation and bring the larger goal into perspective. No one’s really holding me accountable if I don’t reach these personal goals – but I’m pretty sure my life will be enriched having prioritized them.
“Good habits are worth being fanatical about.” John Irving