An alternative perspective on goal setting

The power of identity-based goals for your new year resolutions

Many feel like the best way to do well in life is to set specific actionable goals bound by time. Examples of specific time-based goals include:

  • To become 45kg within 3 months

  • To earn $x by 32 years old

  • To achieve $x net worth by 35 years old

When I tell people that I do not have specific goals, they are often surprised.

Some may feel like I am “not driven”.

I mostly use the identity-based approach which focuses a lot on how I want to show up and who I want to be. I learned some of this from author of Atomic Habits, James Clear.

In this post, I am breaking down my methodology and sharing it. Please feel free to adopt this if you feel if you’d benefit from it.

This is how I approach life:

Step 1: How exactly do I define a good life?

I first begin with the big picture by defining what a good life is to me.

  1. Excellent mental and physical health

  2. Deep close meaningful relationships

  3. Autonomy and continuous growth (Work; Finances; as a human being)

I do not believe in either / or but rather in the delicate balance of all three. This means I avoid compromising on any in the pursuit of the other.

Step 2: Identity: What kind of person do I want to be?

When you want to become better at something, proving your identity to yourself is far more important than getting amazing results.

  • Specific / Time-bound Goals: Reach 50kg by 3 months

  • Identity Goals: I am a disciplined and active person who exercises 4x per week

The latter is more powerful because you set a standard for yourself on the type of person you want to be and ensures a lot more consistency.

Step 3: What systems do I need to put in place?

The final and most important steps is to set up systems. Our systems are the things we do consistently.

There are two components to systems

i. What do I need to do consistently?

🏃🏽‍♀️Health: I never ever set specific goals about how much I want my weight to be or how much % muscle mass I want to attain. I simply focus on clocking 4x per week exercise. You can view and download my entire system for health and wellbeing here.

☯️ Finances: I did not set any goals on when I wanted to hit my first $100k in savings, I just realized one day I did. Owning a condo has never been my dream. I simply put my attention on improving my craft; aligning my actions with the environment 借东风 and investing regularly.

☀️ Career Goals: When people ask me about long term career goals, I know what is my immediate next step but do not have a fixed timeline. I simply focus on earning the trust of senior leaders; consistently performing well; aligning myself with the right company; putting myself out there.

ii. How can I adjust my environment?

Whether we like it or not, we are influenced greatly by those we spend time with.

It is important to guard our mindset by being deliberate about what we watch; what we read and who we hang out with.

What I watch

  • I am strict about my own device usage and avoid poisoning my mind with cheap dopamine.

  • I follow content creators who post regularly about fitness. The idea is to fill my newsfeed with fitness / health related content. Some I like include Jeremy Ethier, Sahil Bloom and Built by Dawson 

  • I do not follow influencers who define success in terms of flashy cars/hot models/private jets as I feel their superficial values do not align with me.

Who I spend time with 

  • My personal rule is not spend time with anyone that (1) does not have the right values and (2) who do not reciprocate

  • For example, if someone is drinks often; superficial; lack sincerity or looks down on others, I will keep my distance.

  • I want to spend time with people who are loyal; good social graces; health focused; mature; driven; love learning and who care about making a positive impact.

When systems and the right environment are in place, achievement will take care of itself.

Screenshot of my template

If you see merits to my method of ‘goal setting’, the above is a snippet from my notion.

I’ve created a template and you can download it here:

What is happiness?

My favourite Pixar movie is Up. While thinking about the film again, I gained a new insight.

Near the end of the movie, the protagonist Carl picks up his late wife’s scrapbook on adventures. He feels regretful that he did not bring her to Paradise Falls.

However, when he turns the pages of her adventure scrapbook. He discovers that she added several pictures documenting their day-to-day life together throughout their marriage life.

She ends it with: “Thanks for the adventure, Carl; now go and have a new one on your own!”

This is when Carl realizes that the way she defined her life with him as an adventure in itself.

Many of us perceive happiness as something we chase for like escaping via long holidays.

Yet, it is the little moments that truly make up our life and makes it worth living. Happiness can be found in the day-to-day things and what matters the most in life is often right on your doorstep.

Another timeless classic I love is Avatar: The Last Airbender. The cartoon explores many eastern ideas around yin yang - and the virtue of balance and explores ideas of what it really means to be a man (this video had 1.8 million views!).


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Grateful to all the kind messages I receive from you all and I save them here.

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