Life’s big truths for phenomenal living: Goals, Energy, Courage, and Action

small-versus-large-target illustration Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig via Compfight

I’ve always been on the fence about goal setting and whether it does us more good than harm.

I know Leo over at Zenhabits is in the no goal camp.

“…These days, however, I live without goals, for the most part. It’s absolutely liberating, and contrary to what you might have been taught, it absolutely doesn’t mean you stop achieving things.

It means you stop letting yourself be limited by goals…”

Leo goes on to tell us that one of the major hiccups in goal setting is that most of our goals often need action steps that we dread. So instead of actually getting started and pursuing our goals we spend more time procrastinating, twiddling our thumbs, and checking email and Facebook.

A personal procrastination tactic of mine is to go grocery shopping for stuff I don’t really need. Give it a shot, it’s an excellent way to get NOTHING done 🙂

And then you have Mr. 4-Hour everything Tim Ferris who says goal setting is a huge part of life and success. One of Tim’s philosophies on goal setting is to go big.

Big goals mean that there’s less competition at the top.

“…I was offering a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world to anyone who could complete an undefined “challenge” in the most impressive fashion possible. Results plus style. I told them to meet me after class if interested, and here they were, nearly 20 out of 60 students.

The task was designed to test their comfort zones while forcing them to use some of the tactics I teach. It was simplicity itself: contact three seemingly impossible-to-reach people—J Lo., Warren Buffett, Bill Clinton, J.D. Salinger, I don’t care—and get at least one to reply to three questions…

Of 20 students, all frothing at the mouth to win a free spin across the globe, how many completed it?

Exactly… none. Not a one.

There were many excuses: “It’s not that easy to get someone to…”, “I have a big paper due, and…,” “I would love to, but there’s no way I can…” There was but one real reason, however, repeated over and over again in different words: it was a difficult challenge, perhaps impossible, and the other students would out-do them. Since all of them overestimated the competition, no one even showed up.

According to the default-win rules I had set, if someone had sent me no more than an illegible one-paragraph response, I would have been obligated to give them the prize. This result both fascinated and depressed me…”

You can actually watch a pretty sweet video of the two of them discussing goal setting… or not setting goals right here.


Goal setting is something I’ve thought about a lot lately in hopes of creating more motivation and results in my life.

I get to chit-chat with a lot of you guys and gals through email, Skype, or even text and it seems like a lot of us struggle with the same thing.

We have WAY to many goals.

The limitless community seems to be full of life enthusiasts, excited about opportunities, and a desire to simply get sh*t done!

Personally I love our passion but all those goals seem to start piling up which means that none of them are getting done.

Obsessive goal obsession = Constantly setting new goals.

A few ways I’ve been tackling goals lately:

Concentrating on one big NOW goal: Try taking a look at what might be causing you the most stress, anxiety, and discomfort in your life right now.

Dedicate all your efforts on relieving that one big obstacle, everything else can wait.

Focusing on behaviors: These are actions that you can actually control and have a choice over.

For instance practicing getting comfortable with the uncomfortable (my free ebook) is something extremely important to me. One way I practice this is by taking cold showers. Every day when I wake up I have a choice about whether or not I will take a cold shower. I can either do it or not, it’s always in my control.

A goal of losing 15 pounds is a noble goal but in reality you don’t have much say over what the scale is going to tell you. However, you do have control over your energy and behaviors. You can choose to sleep/rest properly, eat real food, and exercise consistently. All of which may lead to that 15 pound loss.

Creating daily rituals: Coming up with a system that asks you to take action towards your goal everyday is crucial especially when you’re just getting started.

For example, if you’re trying to run your first 5K race but the only running you’ve been doing the last 15 years is the running man (I apologize for what you are about to see).

Some of the greatest minds of our time had daily rituals that they performed every morning in order to help them stay consistent and on track.

Haruki Murakami. Is a Japanese author that sticks to a specific daily schedule that begins at 4:00 when he awakes. He writes for a few hours, then either runs a 10k or swims 1500 meters. After his workout, he reads and listens to music until he goes to bed at 9:00PM. Murakami claims that writing a novel requires both the physical and mental strength that his routine provides.

Stephen King. Routine each day consists of starting the morning with a cup of tea or water and his vitamins. King sits down to work between 8:00AM and 8:30AM in the same seat with his papers arranged on his desk in the same way. He believes that starting off with such consistency provides a signal to his mind in preparation for his work.

Barack Obama. Our current Prez considers physical fitness and family the two most important elements of his daily ritual. He starts his day with a workout at 6:45, reads several newspapers, has breakfast with his family, and then starts his work day just before 9:00AM in the morning. He may work as late as 10:00 some evenings, but always stops to have dinner with his family each day.

Ben Franklin. Started each day with an “air-bath.” Otherwise known as sitting around stark naked every morning regardless of the weather… YIKES!

However, he also did this: Franklin maintained a notoriously strict schedule, starting his day waking at 4:00 am. Until 8:00, he would wake, wash, eat breakfast, and think about what he would carry out for the day. From 8:00AM to 12:00PM, he worked. Lunch was from 12:00PM-1:00PM, where he ate, read, or looked over his accounts. He then worked until 5:00PM. The evening was filled with dinner, cleaning up, music or conversation, a look back over his day, and then bed at 10:00PM.

Franz Kafka. Actually had a day job that he struggled with, which is something I am sure many of us can relate to. He started his day at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute from 8:30AM to 2:30PM. Afterward he would lunch until 3:30, then sleep until 7:30PM. Upon waking, he would do exercises and have dinner with his family. He began writing at 11:00PM in the evening, usually working until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning–sometimes later.

Read about more famous thinkers and their daily rituals.

Personally I like to start the day with a cup of bulletproof coffee, a quick read (or write) and a short but intense workout lasting 5-10 minutes. It makes me feel accomplished before the day has even began.


If you’re feeling overwhelmed sometimes it’s just best to stop and breathe. This is something I struggle with as I always feel like I need to be “doing something.”

If I’m not it just feels like wasted time but sometimes that doing something is actually doing nothing and taking time to relax, meditate, or just sit still for a few moments to collect myself.

That stress we often feel steams from the feelings of having to have everything be perfect right NOW. Slow down for a second and understand that it will come as long as you are taking action consistently.


It’s easy to get excited about a new goal and to want to jump out of the gate with a full head of steam. You try to do everything at once and take in all sorts of information. However, more often than not it all adds up to just being too much.

You have a job, family, and other responsibilities that need your attention as well. Slow down and work on one thing at a time. Instead of trying to overhaul your diet in one day maybe just focus on swapping some of the grains you eat with veggies.


Imagine yourself as the ideal you.

  • Parent
  • Health
  • Career
  • Relationships
  • Wife
  • Husband

What would that person do right this moment? Act as if that is you all the time. Create an alternate identity for yourself if you have to.

Those of you reading that know me personally are aware of my severe man crush on one James Franco. My roommate Aaron and I often like to go “Franco” on stuff or ask ourselves in times of struggle…

What would Franco do?

Is it silly? Absolutely, but it works to calm the nerves, gets us to take action, and even brings out a little laugh or two because we know how ridiculous it may seem… but it works.

Get it done: If you haven’t read the book Getting Things Done by David Allen give it a look-see. One of the best pieces of advice coming out of it is the 2-Minute rule.

We often put off so many things that could literally be done in two minutes or less.

How many times have you read an email but didn’t respond right way? Next thing you know you have twenty emails you need to respond to.

Or how about finishing a meal and putting the dirty plate into the sink and letting it sit there instead of washing it off right away and putting it in the dish washer. Next thing you have is a stack of dirty dishes.

In essence when a task comes up quickly ask yourself if it will take less than two minutes to do. If it does, do it immediately.

What a mistake really is: Remind yourself that any mistakes that you may make are really just “miss-takes.” They’re opportunities to try again and improve.

Are you really committing: Mr. Chicken Soup For The Soul, Jack Canfield has a wonderful quote.

99% is a bitch, 100% is a breeze.

If you you’re willing to take a day off you’re not ready to commit to what it is that you want to achieve. When you first go at something there needs to be 100% commitment and compliance to set up the behaviors that lead to your goals.




When going after the things you’ve decided are the most important to you in your life there’s a good chance you’re going to get run down, depressed, upset, or frustrated.

There have been many studies showing the positive effects of regular exercise.

“…A study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1999, divided 156 men and women with depression into three groups. One group took part in an aerobic exercise program, another took the SSRI sertraline (Zoloft), and a third did both. At the 16-week mark, depression had eased in all three groups. About 60%–70% of the people in all three groups could no longer be classed as having major depression. In fact, group scores on two rating scales of depression were essentially the same. This suggests that for those who need or wish to avoid drugs, exercise might be an acceptable substitute for antidepressants. Keep in mind, though, that the swiftest response occurred in the group taking antidepressants, and that it can be difficult to stay motivated to exercise when you’re depressed.

A follow-up to that study found that exercise’s effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants. Researchers checked in with 133 of the original patients six months after the first study ended. They found that the people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of which treatment they were on originally, were less likely to relapse into depression…”Harvard Health Edu

Key take away here is to exercise even if you don’t feel like it. This should be one of those daily rituals we discussed earlier. Don’t just take my word for it, even Richard Branson says that regular exercise is his secret to productivity.

Mix it in randomly: There’s no rule saying that exercise can only be done in a gym. The guys and gals over at MovNat prove that.

Every so often you may have an emergency that keeps you from getting to the gym but you can still stay active by incorporating more movement into your daily life.

  • Park further away from work, the grocery store, the mall, etc…
  • Follow the 50/10 rule. For every 50 minutes of work take a 10 minute movement break and do some squats, push-ups, door pull-ups, or head outside for a brisk walk. It may actually improve your productivity and that sought after work/life balance.
  • Try racing your kids up a set of stairs or challenging a friend to a sprint back to your car.

“…A recent study showed that employees can use work time for exercise or other health promoting measures and maintain the same level of productivity, or higher at work. Employees who spent 2.5 hours a week being physically active were more satisfied with the quantity and quality of their work, reported increased work ability and took less sick time than employees who did not engage in physical activity.

By using work time for exercise, employees can also improve their work-life balance because their workout time isn’t squeezed into already busy personal/family time. In another study, for employees who were more physically active, job burnout was less likely to develop into depression. In this study, the best benefits were achieved by people who exercised 4 hours a week…” (1)

Exercise starts out as hard but only gets easier over time: Building the exercise habit can be uncomfortable and even painful at times especially if its been a while. But it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and to build the habit.

The more you exercise (or the more consistent you are with it) you are sending a message to your body that you “really” want to do this. It then over compensates and repairs itself so you can handle it the next time.

If you sit all day your body will adapt to this as well. It will begin to expect it, if you don’t need it to perform then why should stay ready to perform optimally when you need it most? Just take a look at how sitting is actually killing us.

Avoid reactive healthcare: Here’s a multiple choice question for you. You have a pot of water that is boiling over, what can you do to stop it?

  • A. Drop ice cubes in it and keep doing so until it eventually cools off?
  • B. Turn off the flame?

I’m hoping you all selected (B).

There is pretty much a pill for everything. We can choose to keep popping pills for the rest of our lives or we can stop doing the stuff that causes our problems.

These are all things you and I can both start doing immediately that will dramatically improve our health and well-being.

Don’t wait until it’s to late: Why is it we only get motivated when things get to a critical stage? Don’t wait for lab results, bad news from the doctor, an injury, or desperation to occur before you decide to get started.

Sometimes the pain we feel from desperation is just what we need. That pain lets us know that something needs to change.

Instead let inspiration motivate you to get started. You are the cure, not some pill, gimmicky workout, or weird fad diet. You are the cure to what ails you.




It takes courage to live when you’re not living with “the group.” The majority of people do not eat well, do not exercise consistently, they stay out late and drink too much alcohol. They work jobs that they hate and get into debt by spending outside of their means.

It takes courage to not follow the conventional path. It takes courage to turn down certain foods, to head home early so you can get a workout in tomorrow morning, to not take a job for a paycheck but instead to pursue something that you really love, to save money instead of spending lavishly.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to recognize that fear and to do the thing you must do anyway.

Even the greats had fears they had to overcome.

  • Bill Russell used to throw up before many of his basketball games.
  • Billionaire investor Warren Buffett was “terrified” of public speaking. He was so nervous, in fact, that he would arrange and choose his college classes to avoid having to get up in front of people. He even enrolled in a public speaking course and dropped out before it even started. “I lost my nerve,” he said. -Forbes

Author Jose Silva tells us that our fears are the anticipating of a negative experience.

One way this occurs is when we only think about results.

For example when you put a 2X4 on the ground and try to walk across it’s pretty easy right?

But what happens when you lift the 2X4 off the ground 5, 10, 40, 100 feet? Nothing has changed except your interpretation. It’s still walking across a 2X4, something you can easily do when on the ground.

This goes for any easy activity that’s turned into an event. Say a speech home alone and you’re money. Do it in front of a crowd and you’re a mess.

The greater the challenge the greater the opportunity to show your true self and break down walls.

Whether you’re a goal setter or not it’s still going to take a lot of grit to achieve the things you want to achieve. Take care of yourself and others and let the chips fall where they may after that.

Live limitless,