Monday, January 05, 2009

Goals for 2009

Alex Epstein has a great op-ed on New Year's Resolutions over at the ARC which has made it into several media outlets. He correctly points out he difference between the perspective that views resolutions as a "flash in the pan" and the perspective that views them as part of a goal oriented mentality.

It is a sad irony that those who write off New Year's resolutions because so many fail reinforces the passive approach to life that causes so many resolutions--and so many other dreams--to fail. The solution to failed New Year's resolutions is not to abandon the practice, but to supplement it with a broader resolution--a commitment to a goal-directed life.

If any of you have to write annual goals for work, you have an Objectivist to thank for it. Dr. Edwin Locke is probably one of the most cited organizational psychologists in the field, and his name is synonymous with the work that he is best known for: goal-setting theory. As part of a planning and action process, goals are crucial tools to help maintain focus, and by which to measure progress. That is, given things that you value, goals are instruments used to help obtain those values.

I write annual professional goals every year and take some time in deriving them. They serve as milestones to a larger action plan, and periodic review points. I summarize them at the end of the year as accomplishments. We use S.M.A.R.T. goals at work. That is good goals are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. I also add a little "stretch" to mine since that little nervousness you feel if you're not entirely sure you can accomplish it all is a great motivator.

So this year, I've decided to share some of my goals for 2009. Each goal implies an underlying action plan, a series of steps to achievement, but I won't list all of that thinking out for you. I have personal and professional goals for 2009 as well, but the personal ones are... well, personal, and the professional ones would be cryptic to anyone not in my business so I've dispensed with them.

  1. House - Remodel two bathrooms, repaint two bedrooms, install that steam shower, and put in a very large flower bed in my back yard. That assumes I stay in this house (but that is a story for another time).
  2. Health - Compete in at least 3 duathlons, two of which are Olympic distance - bettering my 2007 time. [Note: I've never been one for diet/exercise goals. Weight loss is certainly specific, but to me lifestyle and health need to be in the service of some other end, some other value. Yes, this goal implies weight loss and a host of other things. It just seems more purposeful this way.]
  3. Education - Complete next two OAC classes. Get a better grade than I got on the first one! (so humbling that was for this over-achiever!)
  4. Books - Read at least one work of good literary fiction per month (for a total of 12). Yes, this might not seem like many, but Anna Karenina is on the list. Definitely a stretch goal.
  5. Writing - Increase blog readership to a steady 100 visits/day (or ~3000/month). That's gonna require a whole lotta changes, and a commitment to more regular blogging.
  6. Writing - By years end, I will author one article for the Objective Standard. Yup, this one scares me a bit.
  7. Canine - Title Moxie in AKC Agility - Open Class - both Jumpers and Standard. I'm not a high volume trial attendee so this one is going to require some finesse.

And that wraps it up. What are your goals for 2009?


Burgess Laughlin said...

I fully support having a hierarchy of values, purposes, and goals--from the ultimate value, happiness, down to the narrowest value, e.g., adding to my personal library the latest book from a favorite pop-novelist such Robert Parker.

In my software To-Do List (LifeBalance) I identify these three categories as my highest values:

3. MY FAVORITE LEISURE ACTIVITY: "Roving" (in the physical form of walking and the mental form of reading various happy-ending adventure stories: Westerns, mysteries, etc.).

I add a fourth category:

4. NECESSITIES (health, taxes, finances, etc.--all as means to ends). These are all means to an end, but I would never do them otherwise.

Underneath each of these categories are the many to-do's I need to perform daily, weekly, or whatever. I examine them and complete them daily. I love checking off another item.

This approach gives me the hierarchy of values I need to accomplish the most, in an integrated way. By taking this approach, and succeeding overall, I have gained happiness for the last 22 years of my 64 years of living.

Burgess Laughlin said...

What is the distinction between these terms, which are often used synonymously?
- Value
- Goal
- Purpose

I think of values as enduring across a lifetime--whether it be the philosophical value of Reason, the high personal value of my central purpose in life, or the narrow personal value of Robert Parker's novel, Early Autumn.

I think of goals as being particular destinations that are somewhat ends in themselves ("Run a marathon once in my life."), even though they might also be means to an end (better health).

I think of a purpose as a value expressed as a directive to myself.

I welcome superior definitions and distinctions.

Kendall J said...

Hi Burgess,

Great thoughts! I think that the linkage between value and goals is absolutely crucial, and one of the things that I think is particular to egoism. To that end, the heirarchy is critical to what it means to run a purpose driven life.

As to your definitions, I've always thought of a goal as something discrete, and something that spans a shorter time frame (or maybe just "active" goals span shorter timeframes). I like your characteristic of value. I've always been affected by Rand's distinction of a value as "something one acts to keep and/or gain" which makes it active. I think many people think of values in a contemplative sense as in "I think highly of X" whereas Rand's distinction demands that it is active. One must act. This conception also ties it more directly to goals, and action.

I'm not sure exactly how you mean purpose, however.

Kendall -

Brian said...

What will be the topic of your TOS piece?

Kendall J said...

No idea yet Brian. Something related to the chemical industry. I doubt it will be until the end of the year before you see it.

Brian said...

I can't wait! If you're looking for inspiration, one of my favorite articles to date is Ray Niles's piece on the regulation of the electric utility industry ("Property Rights and the Crisis of the Electric Grid", Summer 2008).