Scott H Young

Velocity-Based Goal Setting


This is the eigth chapter of nine included in my free, full version program, Goals! An Interactive Guide. The other chapters will be added in blog entries for future use.

Goals! An Interactive Guide Chapters:

Chapter One: Why Set Goals?

Chapter Two: Decide Exactly What You Want

Chapter Three: Create an Unstoppable Drive

Chapter Four: Get Organized

Chapter Five: Stay Flexible

Chapter Six: Overcoming Obstacles

Chapter Seven: Review Your Progress

Chapter Eight: Velocity-Based Goal Setting

Chapter Nine: Operate From the Highest Level

In the past seven chapters I have illustrated how to set goals, the benefits of setting goals and how to overcome some of the common problems associated with goal-setting, such as obstacles and inflexibility. So far, however, I have failed to address what is perhaps the biggest problem with goal setting and the reason why many people choose to write off the process of setting goals altogether. To overcome this issue I have created a new concept I call velocity based goal setting. The name may sound a little complex, but the power it has to remove this glaring flaw from traditional goal setting makes it incredibly useful.

Goals are, by their nature, completely oriented towards the future. Every goal you set is phrased in the terms, I will have/do/be by a certain point in time. Although some goals can be broken down to very short periods of time, every goal you will ever set will be phrased in terms of the future, whether it is a decade, year, week, day, hour or minute. Goal setting for the present would be ridiculous. Setting a goal that you will achieve something by this moment is barely grammatical and completely illogical.

This flaw of goal setting comes face to face with an unfortunate but inevitable question. If we really want to live each moment to the fullest, doesn’t goal setting go against this? Doesn’t the future-driven essence of goal setting completely ignore the need to appreciate, experience and enjoy the current moment? How can we possibly simultaneously enjoy each moment to the fullest and still set goals in the attempt to make our future moments more enjoyable.

As a result of this conflict you have two decidedly opposite camps. In one camp you have those moment experiencing hedonists who never experience growth and improvement because of their lack of foresight. In the other camp you have the progressive thinking futurists that try to plan out their future moments so carefully that they neglect to live their current experiences. Both sides are a completely sub-optimal way to live. Is it possible to have both or do we have to compromise?

Yes. It is possible to improve for tomorrow and still experience each moment to the fullest without compromise. The techniques of goal setting will fit into this framework with a bit of a tweak. Introducing this concept at the start would have made learning the skills of goal setting more complicated and difficult. Now that you have a full understanding of the basics of goal setting and you have a bit of practice, velocity based goal setting will just be a twist on the same idea.

If Only Newton Were Here…

Physics has different terms of measurements for the physical properties of objects and time. Position refers to the distance an object is from a starting point. So the position of an object is really its location. A slightly more complex term is velocity. Velocity describes the speed and direction of an object. A Japanese bullet train has a much higher velocity then you do when riding on your bicycle.

Just as scientists can measure an objects position with a ruler, we measure our own lives with a similar method. Have a million dollars, great kids and a perfect body? By most peoples standards this means you are in great shape. You clearly have a great life. Illiterate, living in the gutter with a drug addiction and you are not doing so well. This person clearly has a bad life. This kind of assessment is what I am going to call, positional thinking. In other words, using our own mental rulers for measuring the worth living someone’s life, we view their position.

Unfortunately, this process doesn’t always work. In Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness, he mentions the story of a man. A billionaire philanthropist who created an empire. The man instituted fair labor policies and helped the common man. A visionary and a hero. By our positional standards this man had an excellent life that makes most of our lives pale in comparison. He shot himself in the chest, committing suicide.

Positional thinking doesn’t work. Viewing by position has very little credibility with determining how satisfied, how happy and how much worth we feel our lives have. Unfortunately this is also the exact process by which most goal setting works. Most goals are phrased, I will have/be/do something by a certain date. This statement itself is the essence of positional thinking and what forms an ultimately poor way of viewing our lives.

The billionaire philanthropist was suffering from a spinal disease before he killed himself. Seeing his best years behind him and facing the prospect of living the rest of his years as an invalid, he decided to end it all. On a note he wrote, “Dear Friends, My work is done. Why wait?”

Why did he no longer value his life — a life that by our positional standards would have been excellent? He did this because he knew that because his life was only going to go downhill, that he did not feel there was any opportunity for growth or expansion, he was already dead. The position in life doesn’t make the difference. The true fulfillment, happiness and joy can only come from the current moment. In other words, it is the velocity of each moment that creates fulfillment and happiness.

Velocity based thinking allows us to correct the imbalance between experiencing each moment to the fullest and setting goals to the future. From this context, the only measurement that is truly valuable is how much we are doing in the current moment to grow, improve, expand and experience. The future has not yet come and until it does you have no stake in it. All you can act upon is the now. By thinking about maximizing your current moment it is far easier to experience happiness and joy in your life. Instead of waiting for a certain goal or event to make you happy you are happy in each moment. Being successful is no longer a matter of wealth, health or skill. Success lies in each moment you experience, including this one.

This form of thinking requires a very dramatic shift in our perception of things. Traditional goal setting techniques and the ones I have identified in the previous chapters put a lot of emphasis on position. While traditional goal setting can allow you to focus your efforts and achieve many things, that doesn’t make up for the fact that you end up spending most your time living an existence that is only imagined. Imagining and planning for the future is very important. But that planning and imagination cannot sacrifice the current moment.

How many people tell themselves that they will be happy when they achieve a certain goal? Unfortunately, if you are unhappy right now, then achieving a specific goal won’t make you happy in the future. Velocity based thinking allows you to shift your perspective so that the things like happiness, fulfillment and purpose are available to you at this very moment. Success and greatness by our modern standards are merely a powerful byproduct to the success and greatness you feel this very moment.

Velocity Based Goal Setting

This new form of thinking may seem a stark contrast to the techniques I’ve identified in earlier chapters. Don’t worry. Goal setting is still an invaluable skill and it can be transformed to work in this new paradigm. Velocity based goal setting uses the same techniques I described for traditional goal setting. This is why I didn’t mention it at the start. A complete turnaround of your perspective on goal setting wouldn’t be ideal if you are still practicing the basic techniques. Now that you understand and have had some practice with goal setting, making the adjustments necessary to use them while living consciously in the present won’t be too difficult.

Growth is Your Objective

Traditional goals make an external item your objective. Whether this is to lose weight, earn more money or build a homeless shelter. Positional goals focus you in on the object of your desire. Your focus becomes to achieve this particular objective sometime in the future. As a result your focus has shifted away from truly living and experiencing this current moment. This failure of positional goals is what can often cause goal setting to create stress, frustration or unhappiness.

Velocity based goals make the growth you are experiencing your objective. Instead of focusing on the object of your goal, the true purpose of the goal is to cause growth in yourself for this moment. Although you will still have an external objective for your goal, understanding that the true purpose of your goal is to create growth for yourself allows you to reassess your priorities. Because the growth is the real reason you set the goal, you get instant success. As long as you are moving towards your goal with as much passion and effort as you can utilize, your goal has served its purpose.

This paradigm might be a little hard to accept for some people. But what I truly want is things and accomplishments. I don’t just want to “grow more”. The only reason I grow at all is to be more successful. Alas, this is the biggest lie ever told. You have it completely backwards. Growth is primarily connected to your happiness. The only reason you truly want to achieve or more beyond your circumstances is to feel growth. Abraham Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs listed self-actualization as the highest human need and drive. Self actualization is just another term for growth. According to Maslow, beyond your basic needs for survival, safety, belonging and esteem, self-actualization was a fundamental human drive. Seeing as you are reading this program, chances are you have reached a point of consciousness where you are trying to fulfill your need for self-actualization or growth.

With velocity based goals, the object of your goal is like a lighthouse. The object is meant to provide a beacon of light to help keep your growth directed and focused. Without this beacon, you can go as fast as you want but you may just end up going in circles. The distinction is that you have no desire to dock at the lighthouse. Once you are approaching the lighthouse you find another point of light in the distance and set sail again. Enjoy the adventure of life by experiencing the travel.

Failure is Irrelevant

With velocity based goal setting, failure becomes largely irrelevant. Even if an external source or an unrealistic deadline made failure inevitable, velocity based goals would still consider it a success. So long as the goal provided you with growth in the experiences leading up to it, it is a success regardless of the eventual outcome. Keeping this in mind allows easier recovery from failures.

This is in no way an excuse for not giving all of your resources towards the accomplishment of a goal. By not giving 110% towards the accomplishment of your goal you are undercutting the growth you can experience from it. A failure to give enough effort is a failure of growth. This is true even if you achieved your objective. By this sense a goal that is too easy that doesn’t expend your full resources is also a suboptimal growth experience. Velocity based goal setting allows you to easily shrug off a failure when you were doing your best but will make a failure from a lack of effort more painful.

Reconnect With The Now

Velocity based goal setting allows you to put things into perspective for the now. If achieving your goal does not make you feel challenged, inspired and fulfilled, then it doesn’t matter how good you think actually getting your objective will feel. If you are in pain from constant sacrifice in order to achieve a certain financial goal, don’t justify it by thinking about how happy you will be once you have the money. Again, if the effects of challenge, inspiration, fulfillment and happiness won’t come from the progression of your goal they certainly won’t come from its realization.

This doesn’t mean that the progress towards a goal never involves pain. Starting a dietary goal can often be very painful as you try to shift your habit patterns. Building up to go to the Olympics as a runner will definitely involve some painful pushing of your limits. Growth involves a fair bit of pain. The importance is finding the distinction between healthy, challenging pain and destructive, agonizing pain. If you are lifting weights, growth only comes from having sore muscles occasionally. But pulling a muscle is a whole different story.

Isn’t Velocity Based Thinking Just Hedonism?

Hedonism is actually defined as the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately as you probably can tell just from your reaction to the word hedonism, it is usually thought as selfish instant gratification and an ultimately shallow life. Happiness is such a slippery quality. It seems that when we focus directly on achieving it, it slips out of our hands. When we ignore it completely it never comes near us. I have found, in my own experience, that the direct pursuit of happiness is not likely to lead to its ideal attainment.

Growth is a quality that is linked very close to happiness. The very pinnacle of all human needs, growth seems to create far more happiness then directly pursuing happiness itself. The happiest moments of my life have been the times I felt I have been growing the most. I am incredibly happy the moment I am writing this because of the growth I am experiencing. Velocity based thinking and velocity based goals recognizes this human need for growth. Indirectly this method provides far more happiness than hedonism. More importantly, growth ensures that we seek happiness in a way that doesn’t destroy our future. While living in this moment is ideal, taking a bunch of dangerous hallucinogenic drugs and jumping off a bridge may feel wonderful for a few seconds, but the resounding splat makes a quick end of that.

In order to make velocity based goals a part of your life, set your goals as you would normally. Write out an objective. Visualize and be compelled by that objective clearly. Focus your planning and review processes towards that objective. The distinction is that you need an unwavering understanding that the reason you are setting these goals is to experience growth. In this sense, your goals become a vehicle for growth and expansion, not a brutal dictator that steals away your happiness and gives it to your future.

Take control of your happiness, fulfillment and passion today. Use velocity based goal setting to guide you to the future but live in the present. I live with this paradigm fully every day. I can tell you from experience that it works. I am incredibly happy with my life and my progress. As I continue to grow, I also open up new opportunities for growth. This expansion makes every moment fresh, exciting and curious. Try thinking about your goals in a new way. Use goals as a tool to squeeze the growth and expansion out of every moment in your life.


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