Sunday, January 28, 2018

Tasks, Goals, and Resolutions

I just spent an hour walking on the beach (well not entirely on the beach, but like along the beach and some on the beach and you get the idea).  It was incredibly peaceful and relaxing, to the point that I kept going after I started to get a blister on my foot.  I'm going to try to "make more time" to do that sort of thing, which really just means waste less time watching NetFlix.  Which brings me to my point of the day, which I've always kind of had knocking around in my brain but had never really articulated until just now.  And that is...the difference between tasks, goals, and resolutions.

For the purpose of this post I'm going to define a task as something you can do basically "right now".  At the upper limit it has to be something you can finish "today".  I'm very good at tasks.  I can make a to-do list and knock them down one by one.  Completing tasks makes me feel good about myself, and performing them (even menial simple ones) usually results in a break from the day to day background static anxiety I tend to feel.  The fact that I'm good at tasks is sort of the reason I've been able to be a live poker grinder for so long, and it's the reason I took to scrum mastering toward the end of my stint at EMC.  Playing poker for a living on a day to day basis is very task oriented.  Wake up.  Find a reasonable game.  Get to the game.  Play poker.  Quit when you're playing bad, get tired, or the game turns bad.  I gravitate toward poker because it's a way that I can productive without exerting too much effort.  The point here, however, is that you can achieve a task "right now" and get that little jolt of positive feedback that comes along with it.  Every hand of poker is a task completed.

Now a goal is one step up from a task, and a goal is the level of this chain where I kind of fall down.  A goal is something that you cannot achieve "right now".  It's something you have to work towards over at least a few days (although some of those could really be just big tasks) and more realistically weeks or months.  A simple goal most of us have is "lose weight" or "get in shape".  The problem with those goals, at least for me, is that they aren't quantifiable and you cannot achieve them "right now".  I need to lose about 30 pounds (that's right), but I cannot do that today, this week, or even this month.  That's like a 4-6 month day in and day out grind, and I tend to fall down on those sorts of things.  My Ex was incredibly good at medium term goals, to the point that she would always seem to sacrifice the current moment for some promise of future betterment.  I seem not to be, and I think it's because I don't really get any positive feedback along the way in any easy to digest "chunks".  And if I eat some extra tacos or have a few beers, that doesn't really affect my goal status for tomorrow.  4 months from now when I've not lost any weight it's like "well gee why" and that's why.  I'm just not good at it.

And the item here is the resolution...and that's something is even harder to do than a goal because you can't really measure it and/or you can't even ever really achieve it.  "Quit drinking" is a resolution.  You cannot actually quit drinking (they say this in AA).  All you can actually do is not drink today, or more accurately "right now".  That's it.  "Be more mindful" can't really be measured.  There isn't like a mindfullness meter or app you can get and just track it.  Resolutions are even harder than goals, and that's why people fall down on them.

So what's the point?  The point is that when you get down to it everything you attempt to achieve in your life can be broken down into some sequence of tasks.  When I'm being my most productive I have an active to-do list that just has things going on and off it constantly.  If I have a goal then that just needs to be broken down into tasks that will eventually lead to achieving that goal.  And resolutions....that just require....you guessed it....resolve!

I thought maybe this was going to be some large grandiose thing, but really that's it.  Hope it helps you think about some stuff.

6 comments:

Ace said...

Maybe if you break it down to walk/run x number of miles per day or eat less than x number of calories per day it will keep you on track towards your goal.

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