Our goals must compete for our willpower and resources. Often one goal prevents us from achieving other goals because we don’t have the energy to do everything. We try to do too much and then we fail at everything. Even when several of our goals seem to align, they cause us to make assumptions that lead us to failure.
We can only do so much and change so much. So when we set out to make change, it’s important consider how difficult a change will be, and how this change affects other areas of our lives.
A simple example
You want to eat better and save money, so you decide to start cooking at home.
The problem is that this requires multiple changes at the same time, all of which use mental and physical resources.
First, you’re making changes in what you eat. If you’re following some sort of diet, this will require self control or self regulation, perhaps tracking food intake, counting calories, planning meals. This is a lot of work on it’s own.
Second, you’re making changes in your schedule. If you go from eating out, or especially running through a drive-through, you’re now taking the time to cook at home, buy groceries, clean dishes that you didn’t have to do before.
Even though both goals of saving money and eating better can be achieved via the same method, they lead you to a method that is more difficult and therefore less likely to succeed.
If we were to choose only one goal at a time and ask ourselves how we could achieve that goal with the least effort or the least possible change in our lives, it becomes much easier to achieve those goals separately.
Taking things a step further, how can you achieve a single goal using fewer resources than you’re currently using. How can we achieve a goal at our most tired?
So if we want to lose weight or eat better we might ask these questions.
- How can I eat these foods 100% from restaurants or delivered?
- Can I get food prepared in advance automatically?
- What can I have on hand that takes no preparation, which fits my diet?
- What can I eat at 8pm when I’m angry, tired, and haven’t eaten all day, with as little effort as possible?
The only assumption we have made here is that we need to make things as easy as possible. We haven’t constrained ourselves by price or by some vague sense of what we’re “supposed to do” to get in shape.
Similarly on the financial end, there are more ways to save money than via cooking.
- How can I make more money every month?
- What automatic expenses can I eliminate?
- What is the least painful way to save cash?
Just because we want to save money and we want to lose weight, doesn’t mean we have to use the same methods to achieve both.
Only after we evaluate these goals independently without the constraints of the other, then it makes sense to combine them.
Of the restaurants that I like the most, which fit my diet, which 3 are cheapest?
This solution requires significantly less effort than our initial solution (cook at home) because we’ve eliminated the conflict and the additional unnecessary effort.
So a quick recap:
- Evaluate goals independently and consider taking on only one goal at a time.
- How can I achieve a goal with the least effort?
- How can I achieved these goals separately?
- Are there methods for achieving multiple goals which are not in conflict for resources and are easy to do?