Living by design: 2018 edition

2018 was the fourth year in a row that I used a goal-setting system to increase my productivity and enjoyment in different aspects of life. Some call this “living by design” or “life hacking.” To me, it’s about taking a more proactive approach to living, to treating life as a fun experiment, and to pursuing my dreams armed with a plan. You can read more about my system here.

Now that the year is over, I thought I would share my results.

So how did it go?

Overall, it was a good year. I was able to achieve (or come close to achieving) many of my goals for the year, as you can see in the graph below. Three big accomplishments this year were: volunteering for a week in Vientiane, Laos, where I led a series of workshops at a local university on how to think and act like a change-maker; going deep sea fishing in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand; and raising over $15,000 for the Project Change Foundation and launching a new website for the Foundation. Also, I was able to achieve many of my professional goals this year. Most noteworthy, I exceeded my target for consulting revenue in 2018 even though I spent six months overseas. This bodes well for me as I continue to adopt a more location independent lifestyle.

Back in 2017, I had struggled with my health goals and put on a few unwanted pounds (OK, more like a dozen). To correct course, this year I put a lot of focus on physical fitness. I started by doing 30 push-ups every day in January. While this isn’t necessarily an impressive feat nor a sufficient amount of physical activity to get in shape, it helped me to get into the habit of exercising first thing in the morning. Leveraging the power of this new habit, I gradually built up a more substantive fitness routine and went on to exercise almost every day in 2018 (except for a couple days when I was sick). The end result: I improved my physical health, got stronger, boosted my energy levels, and lost weight.

On the flip side, I fell short of some of my financial goals in 2018. Specifically, the value of my investment portfolio at year end was lower than desired. This was mainly due to the stock market correction which put a dent in my portfolio’s value. There’s an important lesson to be learned here. When pursuing a goal, remember to stay focused on the things you can control, and not be too distracted by external forces that are outside your sphere of influence. For example, I can and should make regular contributions to my investment portfolio (and re-balance my portfolio’s asset mix from time to time) irrespective of the ups and downs of the stock market. Developing sound investment habits, and sticking with them no matter what the market is doing, will increase the chances of financial success in the long run even if the ride along the way is a bit bumpy. This is one of the key benefits that comes from goal-setting: no matter what results you achieve, pursuing your goals can help you to develop better habits. And this can pay dividends far into the future.

I truly hope that 2018 was a good year for you, and I wish you much fun, fulfillment and adventure in the year ahead. Happy New Year everyone!

Warmly, Joe

Notes: i) For privacy reasons, I have elected not to disclose my revenue and investment targets. ii) I did in fact set romantic goals, but I’m way too bashful to reveal them publicly. Ask me about it offline.

Living by design: 2017 edition

2017 was the third year in a row that I used a comprehensive goal-setting system to increase my productivity and enjoyment in all areas of life. Some call this “living by design” or “life hacking.” To me, it’s about taking a more proactive approach to living, to treating life as a fun experiment, and to pursuing my dreams armed with a plan. You can read more about my system here.

Now that the year is over, I thought I would share my results.

So how did it go?

Overall, it was a good year. I was able to achieve (or come close to achieving) many of my goals for the year, as you can see in my ultra-nerdy graph below. Three big accomplishments this year were: traveling across the southern United States to patronize some of the jazz clubs in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the blues bars on Memphis’ Beale Street, and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville; watching a rocket launch live from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida; and raising over $10,000 for the Project Change Foundation. Also, I was able to achieve most of my professional and financial goals this year. This is reassuring as I continue to adopt a more location independent lifestyle.

On the flip side, I struggled with some of my health and romantic goals in 2017. For example, I didn’t make it to a single yoga class despite setting a goal to attend at least 30. Clearly, it’s time to shake things up. So, in 2018, I plan to focus more on my physical health and romantic life, create some new goals in these areas, and be more intentional about achieving them.

I truly hope that 2017 was a good year for you, and I wish you much fun, fulfillment and adventure in the year ahead. Happy New Year everyone!

Warmly, Joe

Notes: i) For privacy reasons, I have elected not to disclose my revenue and investment targets. ii) I did in fact set romantic goals, but I’m way too bashful to reveal them publicly. Ask me about it offline.

Create a dream list to visualize your ideal future

There are an almost unlimited number of things you can do over the span of a lifetime. This is exhilarating, but also intimidating. It’s easy to feel adrift and uncertain about which path to choose. Here’s where having a vision can help. A vision is like a beacon that guides your journey through life. It paints a picture of the future you wish to achieve — one that will bring you happiness and fulfillment.

A vision gives your life direction and keeps you focused on what is truly important. When visualizing the type of future you wish to attain, ask yourself: What do you want to create with your life? What impact do you want to make? What will your legacy be?

A fun way to document the key elements of your vision is to make a “dream list.” Some people keep a bucket list of things they want to do or see before they die. A dream list is similar, but whereas a bucket list tends to focus on once-in-a-lifetime experiences such as watching a rocket launch live or rafting through the Grand Canyon, a dream list is a more holistic and meaningful inventory of the life you wish to create. Here are a few examples from my own list:

  • Write and publish a book on how to discover your purpose
  • Build a charitable foundation that supports emerging change-makers
  • Do a speaking tour to inspire other people to pursue their dreams
  • Live in a foreign country for at least one year
  • Own a home in a warm climate

I keep a copy of my dream list on my computer and review it regularly. At the end of each year, I spend some time reflecting on my vision, values and priorities, and revise the list if necessary. For instance, one of my earlier aspirations was to own a Porsche 911. A few years ago I came to the realization that possessing an expensive sports car was not a big priority, and so I removed it from my list. Don’t get me wrong. I’d still love to drive a 911 someday, but being a proud Porsche owner isn’t important to me anymore.

If you are more visually oriented, you might consider creating a vision board to illustrate your ideal future. A vision board is a collage of images, pictures and affirmations taken from magazines, newspapers or the Internet, and artfully arranged on a poster-board or computer screen.

Whether you use a dream list, vision board, or some other tool to conceptualize your vision, the act of putting it down on paper can serve as a major source of inspiration as you work towards making your dreams come true. Remember, you are the creator of your own destiny. Rather than letting life happen arbitrarily, visualize the type of future you want, then get to work bringing your vision to life.