I wrote this back in January when new year resolutions was a thing, but the lessons are valuable regardless of the period. Resolutions are not reserved for only new years, they are there to help us change our lives at any point we choose to.
The common themes in resolutions is that I see people set goals, talk about creating micro-habits, or learning something new. All of these are good to do, but they are the wrong way to set a resolution. The right way is to zoom out and really understand why you are changing your life. Creating micro-habits to sleep and wake early or to quit watching porn might be healthy habits to have, but you might be wasting your energy and time on the wrong resolutions. You are only creating those habits because it seems like something you should be doing rather than something that is critical that you do.
Jeff Bezos is popular for many things including making the regret minimization framework popular among future entrepreneurs, but I think his method glosses over the actual realities of life and does not address the nuances that come with it. He can get away with this kind of hustle porn content because he is so successful and the richest man in the world.
I believe in growth and progress. I do not think these things are slow, especially in the place of compounding. I think many people expect it to be slow and so they live an ordinary and stagnant life – they get comfortable in the misery of not going after what you want. I also think you are never too old to get out of the rut. Being older just makes it more difficult.
My variation of Jeff Bezos’ regret minimization formula focuses on future-regretting rather than past-regretting. You do not have to have lived a regretful life before you course-correct your life. The formula goes like this:
Imagine you are 5 – 10 years older than you are today. But you are stuck in the same situation – in disagreement with your parents about your life choices, at the job you hate/like sitting at the table with a piece of gum stuck under it, in the bus on your way home, eating unhealthy, not having savings, postponing your projects, et al.
Will you be happy?
If no, try and imagine the way you want to feel 5 – 10 years from now – celebrated, happy, rich, influential, loved, successful, kinder, et al. Do not imagine the actual kind of car you will drive or the exact house you will live in. Those things are fleeting.
Then, turn this feeling into a reality. Happiness can be being married to a partner you love with kids running around in your home. Success can be you being an expert in a niche field. Celebrated can be you being philanthropic or discovering the solution to a problem affecting millions.
Now you are going to future-regret all the things you did not do. You are going to regret all the things that you did not do 5 – 10 years ago that made you get stuck in the ordinary life you now hate. Make yourself feel the regret of not doing those things that made you remain in the same situation, and write all of your regrets down.
Your regret list might be filled with things like – staying too long at your current job, not learning how to code, playing stupid games, not writing all of the things you said you will write, being a hater, et al.
Now that you have the regret list, come back to your current age and quit the regrets. Be thankful that your life is not the same as it is 5 years from now. Past-regrets are not useful for anything. Never ever regret your past decisions. Your past decisions are only good for helping you improve your decision-making ability.
You now have a list of regrets. That list of regret are things you wish to work on; they are your goals. They are the things that if you fixed, they will make you the best version of yourself 5 – 10 years from now. I also recommend doing the future-regret framework once a year to identify new things to work on. Having a long list of things to work on is good. You just need to learn how to prioritize and schedule.
My recommendation to work on these goals is to treat each like a project and break it into mini-tasks. Then schedule the time to work on each task. It is more valuable for you to spend 5 hours breaking the projects into mini-tasks and scheduling time to accomplish each of them than to try and work on the entire project at once.
If my goal was to study abroad, here is a simple way I might break it into habitual tasks.
Goal: Study abroad
- Spend 1 hr everyday reading for Gmat.
- Spend 1 hr every weekend discovering scholarship opportunities
- Save N2000 every week for school application fees.
- Be helpful to family members because l need their support abroad
If you follow this framework, you might realize that your present resolutions – wake up earlier, quit watching porn, leave Twitter, et al – do not contribute to a better version of yourself 5 – 10 years from now.