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It’s about that time where we start reminiscing over the year that’s taken place and begin thinking about the new year to come.

We talk about setting goals when it’s hard to think long term. How far in advance should you set goals? Should your goals have a time frame? How do you account for changing factors?

I talk about the difference between timelines and time frames and how using the right words can help us when it comes to goals.

What if you set a time frame for a goal and realize you’re not going to make it? What’s the best way to approach that situation? Should you have short term goals? How far in the future should we plan specific actions?

We answer these and many other questions on goals, including whether or not they can serve as a tool to kickstart long-term thinking when it’s difficult.

Show Notes
  • 16:35 Sean: I’ve been getting a lot of questions on setting goals in general, as well as looking forward and how to plan goals.
  • 17:34 Let’s say you set a goal, but as you progress you find that things change. Circumstances change. Factors change, and things are different than you envisioned. Tommy says:
    • “I’m struggling with finding a balance between over planning and just doing. I try to think long-term. Things change, then I have trouble adapting. How do you adapt in the context of goals when things change?”
  • 18:10 I can’t say I’m great at this because one of my biggest strengths is also a weakness: If I make a commitment or set a goal, I’m going to stick with it. That’s how I ended up working 239 hours in 13 days leading up to the Learn Lettering launch—because I was so set on meeting this deadline-of-a-goal I’d already set. My trouble is:
    • How do you recognize when something isn’t working?
    • When do you allow yourself to adjust or reset things?
    • How do you know the difference between a legitimate need to reevaluate and the times when it’s just an excuse?
  • 18:57 Ben: “That’s a tough determination to make. Especially because you’re so close to the goal and it’s such a personal thing to you. It’s often difficult to look at it objectively because of this. I’ve had to become comfortable with exposing myself to outside voices. Not in a way that makes me base all of my decisions on input from other people. It’s just so I can get a better picture for myself.
  • 19:43 “I do have a pretty good grasp on what’s working and what’s not working but I can still only see 75% of the picture. Having conversations with people who look at things from different angles and see things I don’t see helps me to get closer to 100% of the picture. The difference between making a decision based on 75% of what you can see and making a decision based on 95% of what you can see, is tremendous.”
  • Publicly Commit To Your Goals
  • 20:42 Sean: Getting some outside perspective is pretty much the only thing that’s kept me in check, and that’s probably not ideal. I should try to find ways to keep myself in check, but I know other people have helped me realize things.
  • 21:03 If someone on the outside only sees part of what I’m doing and says, “I think you might be doing too much. I think you might be too scattered. I think you might need to focus. I think you might need to do less and put emphasis on one thing,” that’s something to think about, especially if multiple people say that.
  • 21:36 Ben: “I want to be careful not to make it sound like eliminating outside input is the goal. It’s a huge asset to have the drive and determination that you have. The opposite is true for people who overthink things. They probably do a better job of looking at things from different angles, but they do that so much that they easily make excuses.
  • 22:17 “I think the better problem to have is laser focus—the inability to see the big picture because you’re so committed—coupled with the humility necessary to receive outside perspective. That’s not weakness, that’s actually a strength. As nice as it is to see things from different angles, I don’t want people to feel like that’s the goal. The goal is being able to make good decisions without being scared of making a challenging decision.”
  • 23:11 Sean: I agree. I do like the “problem” of having laser focus and needing to see things from a different perspective. My own self corrective measures have resulted in taking Small-Scale Sabbaticals because I am so focused, determined, and committed. If I say I’m going to do a daily video show, there’s no question of whether or not I’m going to do it. Even if I don’t have a show today, we’re doing a show today. I’m making a show because I committed to it.
  • Allow Yourself Rest In Order To Reach Your Goals
  • 23:52 My “problem” with the laser focus is, I will run myself straight into the ground because there’s no question of not showing up. What I needed was a reset. That’s why I get so tempted to compromise on my sabbatical. I’ve got my sabbatical coming up and I thought, “There’s no way I have a sabbatical coming up already!” By Christmas break (the week before my sabbatical), we’ll have done 38 seanwes tv videos!
  • 24:34 The last time I had a sabbatical was back at episode 8! I’m not ready for another sabbatical. I’m not ready to not do. I almost didn’t want to take this sabbatical and I realized, that’s the problem. That’s why I started doing this, because I will not stop. I have to put this goal of taking sabbaticals in place, otherwise the inevitability is burn out.
  • 25:14 Ben: “It’s a weakness where your laser focus drives you to do so much that you end up burning out. You’re using that aspect of your personality against yourself by making this public commitment to doing a sabbatical. It’s funny because it’s so different from committing to something like a daily video or twice a week podcast. It’s committing to non-action. You’re taking the same kind of energy and drive to create purposeful rest for yourself.”
  • 26:25 Sean: My adherence to what I say I’m going to do up to this point has been a good thing, but now I need to redirect that energy and correct the course. The only way to do that is to step away from it.
  • You have to get away from the busy work of your commitment.

    You have to reset.

  • Goal Evaluation Takes Reflection
  • 27:44 You have to go on a retreat. You need to take a sabbatical. You can’t just try to reflect on your commitments over a busy weekend when you have a bunch of plans. You know you’re not going to. It can’t be while you’re with family and it’s stressful for you. I’ve had to protect the sabbatical. That is the time where I can get away and really think. That’s when I can reflect and ask myself, “Why am I doing what I’m doing? Is this taking me where I want to go? Where do I want to go?” Those kinds of questions need space.
  • 28:24 Ben: “I’m thinking about the first day of your sabbatical. You don’t have anything planned that you normally do and you feel the pull of your work routine but you don’t have to actually do anything about it. That’s the feeling that you’re looking for. When you try to take a weekend or a normal break, you don’t have that same kind of pull. That drive to work is necessary to create the kind of creative energy you need to look at your situation objectively.”
  • 29:29 Sean: The old PCs I had used to have a reset button—not just a power button. I’m remembering that tactile feeling of pressing the spring-loaded reset button. It’s not touch capacitive, you have to press it in and you can feel the resistance until it clicks. That tension is like the pull of the routine and rhythm of what you normally do. Feeling that pull when you’re trying to turn off—it’s what everyone experiences.
  • 30:29 Remember when you were a kid and you’d wake up on the weekend thinking you’re late for school and then you realize it’s Saturday? Everyone initially experiences that brief panic that you’ve overslept for work on a weekend. Well, the sabbatical is like that on a bigger scale. Every seventh week, the pull to work is even stronger then that Saturday feeling. You get to the seventh week and you have a whole week of feeling that pull. You’re feeling the power of that routine. It’s the tension of the reset. It’s why you need to reset.
  • 30:58 Ben: “It’s not even a sense of obligation necessarily or feeling like you should be working right then, it’s muscle memory. It’s that your body is used to being in work mode, that’s the kind of tension you’re talking about.”
  • 31:17 Sean: It’s a cleanse. It’s a reset.
  • Imagine everything you’re obligated to do—all of your requirements, everything you have planned for the next whole week—being lifted.

    Imagine you don’t have to do any of it and magically, you’ve fulfilled all of your commitments.

  • 33:06 It sounds so amazing. Everyone says, “Wow, I wish I could have that. I wish I had the opportunity to do that.” You’re not going to unless you make it. It sounds silly, “Okay, Sean. You can do that.” Actually, even I can’t do it unless I allow myself to do it. Even when I actually have the time, the availability, and the commitment, I still feel the resistance and the pull back.
  • 33:41 Ben: “It’s a chicken-and-egg thing because taking purposeful rest is so vital to your work. It makes your work better and more valuable, and it makes you more capable and creative. At the same time, when you’re working for clients and trying to keep up with bills, the thought of taking a whole week off of work seems like the opposite of progress. I’m struggling with this. Is it that I look at that as a lack of progress and I can’t give myself the freedom to take the time off, or is purposeful rest the key?
  • “Is taking a week off every seventh week the key to the success I’m not experiencing right now?”

  • 34:42 Sean: Earlier, you mentioned wanting to give yourself the permission to have “me time,” and you felt like you couldn’t afford to do that with all of the things you have to do. You had a rough morning today with a lot of frustration, so I think the question should be: Can you afford to have more days like today? When you don’t set aside that “me time”, that’s the kind of burnout that happens.
  • 35:56 Ben: “Yeah. Maybe this happens at such a frequency that it ends up costing me more time, energy, and focus than I would ‘lose’ if I purposefully took sabbatical time. I don’t know how to measure that but I think it’s probably true. When you’re not purposefully taking a break, it’s going to cost you in ways that add up over time. Those small ways that you unintentionally take a break can be unhealthy and they don’t really add up to meaningful rest. You still end up feeling burnt out, and you still end up losing time without the benefit of actually experiencing rest. That’s what I feel like I’m going through today.”
  • 37:32 Sean: On the note of rest, it’s important if you want to achieve your goals and if you want think long-term. You have to prepare in advance. You have to avoid burnout. I think this topic of rest is really relevant to this overall discussion around goals. With purposeful rest times, at worst, you’re going to be par for the course. The rest of your work is going to benefit; your output will be even more efficient to make up for the time that you took to rest. At worst you’re par and you feel better.
  • 38:33 You feel like a healthier person. More than likely, you’re actually going to do even better for yourself because when you have freedom and clarity from that rest, you’re going to find yourself wanting to be productive. You’re going to come out on top. At worst you’re on par, but I bet you’re going to come out ahead because you’re going to get clarity. You’re not only preventing yourself from going in the wrong direction, you’ll get clarity on the fact that it’s the wrong direction.
  • 39:49 Ben: “That sounds nice but it’s scary because I’m so used to fighting for every inch. The challenge is getting out of that mindset. If I can’t get out of that mindset, the challenge is just doing it anyway to try it. What I might experience can’t be much worse than the burnout I feel right now.”
  • Planning vs. Doing
  • 40:41 Sean: To the other part of Tommy’s question, which was, “How do you balance between planning and doing?” I feel like you obviously want to spend more time doing, because some people will plan things to death and make no progress.
  • Spend some time planning but then start doing.

    Start doing in the direction of your general goal and you’re going to discover things that you need to be doing.

  • 41:19 At some point you need a reset. For me, it’s every seventh week. You need to step back. You need to get perspective on where you’re going and if you’re doing the right things. In the beginning, be deferential to the doing. Just start. Don’t plan this thing to death. Just start working in a direction and allow that to self correct. Allow yourself to discover the right things that you need to be doing. Have those milestones where you step back and you reevaluate.
  • 41:53 Ben: “There may be a minimum level of planning that has to be done before you can do anything. Obviously, you can’t just start walking in a direction completely blind, you have to have some idea of which direction you’re going. Rachel and I have decided to write a book together. There’s a lot of planning involved in that, but we could do everything except for actually write words on a page and feel like we’re getting something done, when really all we’re doing is planning.”
  • 43:11 Sean: Check out seanwes tv episode, Why You’re Not A Small Fish In a Big Pond. I talk about how people feel like there’s so much out there and they need to find the right thing to say. Sometimes they think they shouldn’t even start at all. If you are even asking those questions then you are the 1%. The video goes more in depth on this topic so I’ll leave it at that but it’s definitely worth watching.
  • Timeline vs. Time Frame
  • 44:06 Sean: This is a big question I got, “Should goals have a time frame?” This is a question that I’ve asked myself a lot. Tommy says, “How do I find balance between working towards my long-term goals and my short-term goals? Should all my short-term goals in some way work towards my long-term goals?” The words “timeline” and “time frame” are often used interchangeably. The distinction here is:
  • timeline

    • A table listing important events for successive years within a particular historical period.
    • A schedule of events and procedures.
    • A timeline typically has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

    Timeline is a retrospective word. It’s very historical, it’s past-focused, it’s less restrictive. It’s deferential to how long things take to complete.

    time frame

    • A period during which something takes place or is projected to occur.
    • It’s a period of time that is used or planned for a particular action or project.
    • It’s a period of time, especially a specified period, in which something occurs or is planned to take place.

    Time frames are definite plans for the future. A time frame is what you would have in your contracts. You wouldn’t want to have a timeline in your contracts—that’s much more open.

  • 46:21 Think of it this way: a line goes forever until it stops. A line goes until it ends. Then we look at it and we call it a line. A frame is a boundary. It contains something. It says, “What’s inside of this box is important. What’s inside of this box is what we’re focusing on. It lives within this border, and not beyond it.” You should have timelines for your goals and time frames for the tasks leading to the completion of the goal.
  • 47:15 Ben: “Are you essentially saying that you don’t actually set a deadline for a big goal? You just know that in order for it to happen, other things are going to happen along the timeline that lead to the big goal?”
  • 47:40 Sean: To differentiate between deadlines and goals: you do want to set time frames for deadlines. When something absolutely must be completed by a certain point, you have a time frame.
  • A goal should be a general point to shoot for.

    If you treat a goal like a deadline, it works against you.

  • 48:16 Once you feel you’re getting closer to that point and it looks like you’re not going to accomplish it by that deadline, you’d be more inclined to give it up whereas it would be more valuable to complete it in a slightly longer amount of time if that’s what it took.
  • 48:48 Ben: “It’s easier to forgive yourself for not doing a small task within a timeframe you’ve set than it is when you don’t complete a large task in a set amount of time. Of course you don’t want to plan on not completing something in time, but there’s a big difference between needing 1 extra day to complete it versus needing 6 more months over what you had set aside.”
  • 49:41 Sean: It’s a projection. You’re adding up the tasks in terms of deadlines, because the goal is this timeline, this scheduled procedure. There’s an overview and the tasks that lead up to the goal can have time frames. You work on a piece that has a deadline and you know that there’s a lot of pieces. When you lay the pieces out end-to-end, you know it will take until a certain point to complete. The goal is an estimation of when the tasks themselves will be completed.
  • Breaking Goals Into Milestones
  • 50:27 Ben: “When you’re focused on the tasks required to reach a goal, for better or worse, those tasks can end up pointing you in a slightly different direction from your goal. Stepping back from those tasks to reflect on the bigger picture can help you calibrate your direction and adjust your expectations of what you can accomplish.”
  • 51:36 Sean: That addresses what Ryan says really well, “I was just struggling with this this morning when I was working on my Lambo Goal. As I tried to draw out the steps, it got trickier to figure out where to go after a certain point. I don’t even know the opportunities that I’ll have once I hit a certain milestone.”
  • 52:01 That idea of milestones is really nice too. You can break up this longer-term goal, not only into tasks with deadlines, but into milestones. Milestones can be different points that are a more zoomed-in than the overall goal. When you reach a milestone, you can reevaluate because you don’t know what opportunities you’ll have once you get there. It’s like putting your head down and sprinting to that point, then once you get to the mountain top, you look up.
  • You don’t know what’s going to be important to you six months or a year from now.

  • 52:56 Ben: “You can assume that you’ll want the same things and that those things will be as important to you but you don’t know what you’re going to learn along the way. You don’t know how what you learn is going to influence the way you think. Six months from now you might be in a completely different place and say, ‘Why did I want a Lamborghini? That’s such a small goal to me now.'”
  • 53:54 Sean: Jay says, “Is there a difference between the Lambo Goal and a long-term goal?” Yes, there is. A long-term goal is something you are aspiring to in the future. The premise of a Lambo Goal is setting bigger goals. It’s taking your big goal and multiplying it.
  • Setting Goals to Spur Long-Term Thinking
  • 54:27 Niki asks, “Can setting goals help lead to a breakthrough in long-term thinking? We typically consider long-term thinking as being the motivation for goals, but maybe there’s a place for goals to serve as a tool for kickstarting long-term thinking when it’s difficult.”
  • 54:57 Ben: “I was thinking about my long-term goals this morning and as frustrating as my morning was, my current circumstances weren’t affecting my belief in what I can accomplish in the long-term. I think that’s the difference between long-term thinking and short-term thinking. Short-term thinking focuses on present circumstances and makes you think that’s what’s going to happen forever. Long-term thinking looks outside of your current circumstances. It helps you not be complacent even when circumstances are great—not in a way that’s dissatisfied with what you have but in an enthusiastic way for the future.”
  • 56:32 Sean: I think goals can be used to kickstart long-term thinking, that’s the idea behind the Lambo Goal—to dream bigger. It gets people to exercise their thinking by thinking bigger and longer-term. If you’re more focused on short-term—or even past-focused—setting a long-term goal as an exercise can be beneficial in enabling long-term thinking.
  • 58:00 Ben: “You’ve talked about the idea that the goal you’re aspiring towards is already a reality. That’s hard to grasp, but it promotes the practice of thinking about your long-term goals and believing in them enough that it influences the way you operate in the present.”
  • 58:54 Sean: It’s like a strategy game where you have armies on a certain territory and you have to get to a certain point. There’s all these obstacles and steps you have to take. Let’s say the rule of this game is you have to plan 4 steps every time it comes to your turn. You don’t know what the other players are going to do but you have to submit your plays all at once. It forces you to think longer-term. You want to get to a certain point and you have a plan to get there. Then, you mentally zoom in to the army and you’re the leader. Your job it is to play out that simulation.
  • The Goal-Achieving Mindset
  • 1:00:00 Ben: “I like that picture. You already know the outcome of that one play because you’re already playing it out in your mind. A lot of people have this vague idea of what could happen or they’re afraid of what could happen so they end up half-heartedly starting. Whereas, if I’m playing out a positive scenario in my mind, what’s going to happen is going to happen unless I just don’t do anything. A lot of people get so scared by what could happen that they become paralyzed and end up not doing anything.”
  • 1:01:35 Sean: It comes back to, how much do you believe in the goal and your achieving it? Once that’s your mindset, that’s where you’re going to be. You know where you’re going to be and you’re saying, “I’m going to be there. I’m going to achieve that.” It’s already happened.
  • 01:02:12 Let’s zoom out from a timeline: left is the past, right is the future, and there’s a red dot on the line where you are right now. Look forward in that timeline and put a little pin where you want to be. You’re going to do what it takes to get there because you already know that’s where you’re going to be.
  • It’s a matter of reality aligning with your mindset.

  • 01:03:02 Ben: “What would you say to someone who says, ‘When I zoom out, I have a really hard time believing that pin is going to be there when I get there.’ Is this kind of belief something you can make yourself experience? Is it something you either have or you don’t have?”
  • 01:03:38 Cory: “Whether you can see a pin or not is simply whether or not you can think of a goal to achieve. Once you have the goal, you have the pin. You even having a really big dream is zooming out and choosing where the pin goes.”
  • 01:04:03 Ben: “I know there’s a pin and I have a dream, but what if I put the pin out and I get there to find the pin isn’t there? I’m afraid of that disappointment. I’m hesitant to put the pin somewhere on the timeline. Who am I to say that the pin should go there? Who am I to even have a pin at all? Maybe I don’t deserve to have a pin or maybe it’s impractical to have a pin. I’m asking these questions because I think people can relate. I think there are people out there saying, ‘I don’t know how to make myself believe when I don’t think I can.'”
  • Putting A Pin Down Anyway
  • 01:05:05 Sean: It goes back to the episode about being “rational” (Related: e132 Screw Being “Rational”).
    • Do you want what other people want of you?
    • Do you want what other people expect of you?
    • Do you want what your old self expected of you?
    • Or do you want something better?
    • Are you willing to think outside the box that either you put yourself in or allowed other people to put you in?
  • 01:05:56 That’s something that has to come from within. That’s something you have to decide and you have to take hold of. You’re going to disappoint someone no matter what you do. Do you want to disappoint other people or do you want to disappoint the future version of yourself?
  • Are you happy with where you’ll be if you repeat the last 3, 6, or 12 months of your life? If not, something needs to change.

    Something needs to change with your goals and where you’re putting that pin.

  • 01:06:04 Ben: “We tend to believe in what we see. When we don’t work towards goals, we think that’s all that’s going to happen. There’s a difference between being rational and trying to break free from a belief that you’ve grown into. It’s difficult to change your mind when you believe that if you put a pin down, it’s not going to happen.
  • 01:08:06 “Maybe it’s less about changing your mind than it is about not believing in it and putting the pin down anyway. Take the steps toward that goal, even though everything inside you says you’re wasting your time. When I’ve acted differently from what I believe, I find that it starts to change what I believe.”
  • 01:11:03 Sean: I like that advice. If you don’t believe you can achieve a big goal, maybe the best you can do is put the pin down anyway.