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POSTED
2020-04-07
07-081940
08-47148
09-081966
10-31

The only way to achieve goals is to instead maintain singular focus on the concrete steps of a process designed to achieve those goals.

This page is a stub, created on 2020-04-07 (last updated on 2020-11-25). Its contents are notes on the issues and angles I want to address about this topic.


Just as true understanding requires being able to connect abstract concepts back to the concrete observations they came from (and applying to new concrete instances), being goal-oriented requires that one understand the specific actions one needs to take to achieve goals.

Psychologically, the day-to-day focus cannot be on the goal, but must instead be on adhering to the process that manifests the requisite actions.

A good example is around body morphology goals: One cannot focus on the day-to-day changes on the scale, but must instead focus on adherence to the diet and exercise program designed in service of the goals. The process can then be reevaluated and refined at defined milestones.

There are strong connections to having a growth versus fixed mindset, self-esteem versus shame, and guidance versus authority in parenting.

Additional notes:

  • Another great example is "life as the standard" or "happiness as the goal" in philosophy; these are fine, but "be selfish" or "pursue happiness" aren't helpful, and, like with body morphology, can psychologically create perverse, short-term incentives, such as cynical exploitation or whim-worship. So you still need something more concrete to provide meaningful, actionable guidance, like virtues.
  • Andrew pointed out in a chat we were having on 2020-05-17 that there are different approaches to framing the goal, too. I'm not sure how to characterize these yet, but one is about framing the goal as present identity (eg, "I am a fit person.", "I am an honest person.", "I am a happy person.", "I am worthy of love and belonging."), which puts you in the future mindset and makes the more concrete goals feel achievable and the processes followable, and the other is about framing the goal as a desired outcome or state (eg, "I want to be shredded.", "I want to weigh X pounds.", "I want to respond to people with compassion."). Read the same idea on 2020-11-25 in Atomic Habits.
  • What's the connection to product management? Customer-obsession is great, but you need to be thinking about direct customers, not just endusers.