Set Your Criteria For A Good Day

Life in general is tough, even if we are among the privileged minority on the global scale.


Everybody has big goals they hope to accomplish, and we must balance them with the many demands that life throws our way; family, health, money, among others.


We set those goals and inherently understand that they won't be achieved until far into the future, where the timeline is set in years or even decades. Becoming financially independent is one example but there are plenty of others; becoming a top level athlete, becoming a polyglot, becoming a PhD, becoming a successful writer, becoming an executive in a big company or a successful business owner.


If the goal is "worth pursuing" it probably requires a tonne of effort and a tonne of time.


So it's normal to lose passion along the way.



Passion


If you ask me I would say that it would be strange for someone not to lose passion on the way to their goals, but first let's clearly define what I mean with this word "passion".


I think of passion as that burning motivation you get towards the start of anything new you try and find interesting. The first novel you read, the first weights you pick up, your first run, learning to introduce yourself in a new language, the first blog article you write, the first project you do in your new job.


Despite only just starting, your imagination has raced ahead. You're now on a beach with toned abs, and all the other beachgoers are admiring your physique while you recite Shakespeare in French.


Nothing wrong with a bit of imagination, that's what passion and excitement does to you.


But there'll be a Monday evening a few months down the line where you give yourself an excuse to skip leg day and the only thing "French" you've done is eat french fries instead of salad. Oh and... you finished your last book about two months ago and haven't "had time" to get started on another.


You were passionate, but now you're a little bored since the novelty of it all has worn off.



Purpose


There's probably no real way to stop you feeling passionate about some new things, and that's a good thing. Even creatures of habit like myself occasionally find something that will completely absorb me for some amount of time.


Eventually that new thing's grip on me will fade - or I actively rip myself out of it - but on the rare occasion the new thing may find a more permanent place in my life.


The determining criteria - does it align to a purpose that I'm trying to achieve in life.


Take this blog for example... I've been writing for about 18 months now and it's not exactly massive in terms of readership. But I've stuck with it because I'm trying to develop my understanding of why I want to achieve financial independence, and how I'm going to get there without making my life completely miserable.


Writing the blog aligns to a purpose of mine.


I also made various social media accounts to go alongside this blog. Channels for promoting my content and all of that stuff. But after a short while I stopped maintaining those accounts, save for the occasional tweet once a week or so.


The reason - going viral and having a massive following on social media isn't the purpose of this blog.


So while it was all fun and exciting to see new followers and blog views, giving me a boost of "passion" for the blog, it actually meant very little.


Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your readership and it would be nice for the blog to become massively popular, but that isn't its purpose.


So as time passes by and readership remains relatively low, passion shall naturally fade. And when passion ultimately gives way it is purpose that remains, keeping me on the path towards progress.



Criteria for a good day


Now that I've laid out my definitions for passion and purpose, it's time to talk about setting criteria for a good day.


Why do I think this is important?


Because even if you know what you need to do at a high level, i.e. achieve a 40% savings rate each month and invest it into an index fund, it's hard to see the positive progress in the short term.


Plus, even if you know the purpose you're still going to have moments where you simply feel unmotivated and burnt out.


You need something that gives you a micro-boost so that you don't lose hope in it all. So that you have some way of affirming that, despite your feeling down and beat up, you're actually doing really well and still making progress.


The path towards succeeding in achieving your goals is to take many small consistent actions every day. By themselves you won't really see much progress but when you accumulate those small actions over a lengthy period of time they'll surely add up.


The actions may differ depending on circumstances, but they remain consistent based on the criteria you set. Here's one example to illustrate the difference:


A daily criteria might be to do 30 minutes of exercise. But in terms of actions you may do a different set of exercises on Tuesday compared to Monday.


More importantly there will be days where your body just isn't feeling up to the standard workout. So you opt to do something lighter; yoga instead of squats or something like that.


You may have changed your actions based on the circumstances, but since you still did something to meet the criteria you can call it a good day.


And that's what this is really all about.


We're all human so it's normal to feel fatigued in almost anything that we do for a sustained amount of time. People who play video games for a living get burnt out. Professional footballers lose their form. An early retiree feels as though they should be more productive.


But if you have a set of criteria that you can quickly review at the end of each day, you'll be able to fight your inner demons and stay true to your life's purpose.



Setting criteria


Set criteria that are actually quite simple. Don't set too many, but don't set too few.


You can have criteria that applies to all days, like I do, or you can have different sets of criteria that apply to different days. A criteria for weekdays while another for the weekend for example.


Again, don't overcomplicate it.


The key is that you want to be able to tick off all of your criteria items on all days while still achieving a sense that you actually pushed yourself.


And obviously the criteria needs to align to what you consider a "good life", one that enables you to eventually achieve your big long term goals and feel fulfilled in general.


If it doesn't align, get rid of it.


Here's my own criteria list:

  1. Learn Chinese

  2. Read / Listen to an audiobook

  3. Stretch / Workout

  4. Review a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu technique

  5. Write on my blog

  6. Spend time with family

  7. Eat something healthy

  8. Work


If I manage to do all 8 items on my criteria list I consider the day to be a success, even if I may have done a little less than usual in some of them due to being "tired" or "unmotivated".


But in truth, what I've noticed happening is that the criteria I set has actually served as a "referee" on many occasions. Sometimes I tell myself I'll only read 10 pages of a book instead of 20, but when I get to 10 and I'm still feeling really unmotivated, I use the criteria as a way to force myself into getting it done.


It sucks at the time but when I finally grind my way through it I not only find myself feeling much better about the day, but about my goals overall.



Gamifying


All of these little techniques are just ways that I "gamify" my life in order to push forward on my goals.


You may feel that my daily criteria list has nothing to do with financial independence but in fact it does.


I'm making sure I spend some part of my day learning and expanding my knowledge. I'm staying healthy and working out to build my self confidence. I'm spending time with family so that I have work-life balance. And working hard is a part of my criteria, ensuring I'm giving my best efforts at my job.


If you bundle all of these things together they will eventually lead to career progress and increased earnings, which can of course be invested.


But here's the thing.


Being able to put a "tick" at the end of each day affirming that I spent that day well leads to something even better than financial independence.


It leads to a happier life where I'm no longer just looking at a far-away goal, but feeling fulfilled on a daily basis knowing that I'm living my life to its fullest potential, knowing that as long as I keep achieving my "good days" those goals will surely come to pass.


It could be next year, it could be next decade, or it could be another 50 years away.


But since I'm living a purposeful life where I feel fulfilled, it doesn't matter. Each day in itself is freedom, freedom from feeling discouraged on the fact that I haven't "reached my goal" yet.


And that type of freedom can't be bought with money.

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Don't wait for some magical number before you start "living". Life is full of surprises and you'll never be able to plan it perfectly. If you're doing sensible things with your money you'll eventually reach your goal. So start living now. The longer you wait, the less time you'll have. Money can be made, but time cannot. You are the barrier to the life you want to live, not a 4% safe withdrawal rate.

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