“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
It's easy to agree that the greater the number of goals we have, the less likely we'll be able to achieve them all. We may not realize how many goals make it onto our list, because we let other people add many— sometimes we're complicit, others we're not fully aware. But how do we pare them down? How do we prioritize?
In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance psychologist Angela Duckworth says the ideal would be to have one top level professional goal, with others aligned in support of that one. Having one thing to refer back to helps us focus on what we decided is important to our work.
A good method to pare down our goals comes courtesy of a suggestion by the self-made millionaire Warren Buffett to his pilot. “The story goes like this: Buffett turns to his faithful pilot and says that he must have dreams greater than flying Buffett around to where he needs to go. The pilot confesses that, yes, he does. Then Buffett takes him through three steps.”
First, you write down a list of twenty-five career goals.
Second, you do some soul-searching and circle the five highest-priority goals. Just five.
Third, you take a good hard look at the twenty goals you didn't circle. These you avoid at all costs. They're what distracts you; they eat away time and energy, taking your eye from the goals that matter more.
Writing all goals down has a sobering effect, it's the same process we use to see all the things we're eating—helps with awareness but also with accountability. Making the selection can be hard, but it's also liberating—now we can let go of all the other things that don't fit with our highest-priorities. It's then hard to ignore what we realize from the exercise.
Grit is the blending of passion, which Duckworth defines as development and deepening of interest staying consistent over time, with persistence. “Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you're willing to stay loyal to it,” she says.