It's about the People, Stupid

Image credit:

Image credit:

When my initial attempt at goal setting knocked me on my tail—read this post for background—I started from scratch. What would make my life a good one, when all was said and done?

You can't take material things with you when you die. But you can't take anything with you when you go--even immaterial things. So if material wealth gives you true happiness while you're above ground, what's wrong with that?

Regardless, material things don't tend to make me happy. I like nice stuff, but it isn't the key to my fulfillment.

More than anything, a full, happy life for me is tied to experiences. And more than just things I've done and places I've seen, but the people who share my time. Even great destinations and once-in-a-lifetime moments aren't worth as much if they aren't experienced with people who matter to me.

So I created goals around my relationships: deepening connections with close friends and family, building new friendships, and connecting the groups of people I value. (Not to worry: I also developed goals for other critical areas: professional, mental, health, financial, and learning.)

Ready for me to sound like a real nerd?

I did a bit of a gap analysis: I looked at the ideal and compared it to the present. And then I determined what actions I could take over a year's time to move closer toward my goal. The actions needed to be specific and measurable. For example:

  • Call or e-mail one friend a week.

  • Once a quarter, schedule a lunch or dinner or coffee meeting with a new acquaintance.

  • Talk to Dad twice a month.

  • Spend time one-on-one with Mom once a month.

Consider that a sampling for illustration purposes--I actually had about five actions each for family and friends. Also, these were baselines: I could do more than what I had outlined, but to achieve my goals I needed to take these bare minimum actions.

To ensure that I carried through on my plans, I entered the tasks in Outlook. I set the tasks to automatically generate on schedule.

Some people use other life-organizing tools--you can replicate this process in whatever system works best for you. (If you want to learn my system specifically, which I use for goals, personal activity, and all work/professional tasks, read Michael Linenberger’s book Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook.)

Seem crazy? I've found that if I don't make something as official and important as a work task, it won't happen. And if it doesn't happen, I won't meet my goals.

Is it working?

Recently, a friend said he'd like more close friends. On July 15, 2012, an article in The New York Times lamented the difficulty of making buddies in adulthood. What I'm doing must be working, because I don't have either problem--although I see how easily anyone could. Sure, it means effort and focus, yet that's true of anything you really want in life.

I'm bowled over by the amazing people I get to enjoy--and even moreso than I was before, now that I've become closer to them. My life is richer as a result of the work I've put in over the past couple years.

Short answer? Yes.