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.