Cascading Goals and Nasty Sandwiches

Let’s talk about cascading goals.

But first, I think real freedom is:
sammich
1) Deciding to be happy right now, in spite of anxiety or chaos or drama in your life. Focus on gratitude and abundance.

2) Establishing habits, routines, and cascading goals that empower you. More on “cascading goals” in a moment.

3) Dream lining and long term goal setting to help reduce anxiety.

OK so let’s break down “cascading goals.”

One example for me would be daily exercise. It has empowered me in a way that I never could have predicted. Being in good shape gives me confidence, better sleep, the drive to take on bigger projects, more energy, better health overall, and so on.

In other words, daily exercise and being fit doesn’t just affect one area of your life–it affects nearly every area. And when you add up all of those different benefits, it makes pretty big impact overall.

And then there are the “second order benefits” of exercise. This the cascading idea. So because I set an ambitious exercise goal (i.e., run a marathon) and I eventually met that goal, it gave me the confidence to set more lofty goals in other areas of my life. And so I aimed much higher than I ever would have as a result of meeting an exercise goal and feeling that boost of confidence that comes from being in good shape.

Difficult to explain but the effect is real. I had to experience it first hand to really grasp it.

So what are some other examples of cascading goals? Things such as:

* Quality sleep.
* Quality nutrition.
* Frugality/healthy finances.
* Assertiveness.

I cannot actually vouch for the nutrition idea. I only suggest that based on what I have heard from others.

But the other 3 on that list, the sleep, frugality, and assertiveness–those all have a huge impact on my life.

I think it is worth noting the idea that you can frame any of those “cascading goals” in terms of the negative as well. For example

Sleep = poor sleep habits become a drag on all parts of your life.
Finances = poor finances will become a drag on you in many different ways.
Assertiveness = being passive or overly aggressive can lead to unhappiness and toxic relationships.

Which brings up another good point: If you want to know which “cascading goal” may have the biggest impact on your life, just take a look at your current pain points.

What is causing you grief, anxiety, stress, or negativity lately? What are your pain points?

Some examples of these might include:

* Addictions of any kind. Drugs, booze, sex, food, gambling, etc.
* Anxiety or depression.
* Physical illness or debilitating injuries.

You can probably think of other pain points as well that might affect several areas of your life.

The bottom line is, if you suffer from any of these major pain points, then getting help and fixing the problem would be your biggest impact goal the moment. Nothing else could give you more value for your effort, because these “negative cascading goals” have such a negative impact on so many different areas of your life.

I currently keep a note file on my phone that is separated by day of the week. Each day I have tasks penciled in such as “3 minute plank” or “10 minute meditation session” and so on.

Since I am constantly glancing at my phone anyway (bad habit?), I quickly review this task list periodically and make sure I am ticking off the boxes. This is habit creation in the digital era.

Check your list, complete your tasks. Periodically review them and when things come up, add them on to your list. It’s nice because you may know that you will not have time for a new idea until Thursday, so you just put the new idea under “Thursday” on your task list. Anyway that is my current productivity system and it is working great so far. It is helping me to knock out tasks that I am not always motivated for in the moment (like 3 minute planks!).

My major remaining pain point is being passive/not assertive enough. Honestly I have addressed most of my other pain points in life and so I really need to focus on assertiveness training. Luckily my work allows for that right now if I am willing to rise to the challenges that are presented.

Sometimes I get….not sure of the right word here, selfish maybe? It’s anxiety, lack of gratitude, and being passive. I get mad at the universe or at my situation because I am being passive, I am afraid to assert myself, and I am not recognizing the abundance I already have. This is madness, and the first step is in recognizing that it is madness to be unhappy because I think that I lack something.

The reality is that I want for nothing really, I have health, fitness, good relationships, a decent job, purpose, and plenty of resources to create whatever I may choose. But because I am passive at times and I fail to choose anything, I get restless and discontent. That is madness. This is why, for some people, the solution to anxiety is to dream line. Figure out what you want and strive for it, brushing off drama and anxiety on your way there.

Imagine Bill Gates at home with his wife Melinda. She says “Oh by the way Bill, my family is invading your home next week, I hope that is not a problem.”

Now let’s assume that for Bill Gates, having his in-laws stay over is the equivalent of eating a shit sandwich. How does he cope with that stress? Does his billions of dollars somehow buy him relief from this invasion into his personal life?

No, being rich does not get you out of every shit sandwich. The solution is dream lining….Bill Gates has a few exciting projects on the back burner, and so his solution is to dive into that exciting and rewarding work. He cannot say to every shit sandwich that shows up in his life “here, take a million dollars and go away.” Instead, he has to create excitement and positive feelings in some other way. So dream lining is the solution to the loss of personal freedom. It gives you something positive to focus on when a shit sandwich shows up in life.

Recap:

* Productivity system. Simple task list, knock out daily to-dos. Form habits, etc.
* A focus on long term goals, cascading goals. Pay big dividends in the long run. Build these new goals and habits into your daily task list.
* Decide to be happy today, with abundance and gratitude.
* Dream line to overcome shit sandwiches.

That is where I am at lately and what I am focusing on. What about you?

Interviewed by Chris Desatoff

chrisRecently Chris Desatoff, a fellow Internet marketer, asked me a barrage of questions in an email. I figured it was worthy of answering in a post and calling it an official interview. So here it is, based on his exact questions to me:

What has Patrick Meninga learned about happiness and gratitude through this wacky adventure these past few years — and especially these past few weeks? Is he learning to find happiness at the day job he once loathed?

So here is the back story for those who are interested: I quit my day job during August of 2011. I started back to work (at the same company no less!) on November of 2014.

So the question is, what did I learn from all of this, and did I find a path to happiness in my return to 40 hours/week office work?

A couple of points here.

One is this: Before I quit my day job, I was so sure that the freedom from work would be the great ticket to happiness that I longed for. I thought that having all of my days free would be the one thing that I needed to make me happy.

You can guess (probably) what I learned from this experiment: Quitting your day job is not an instant ticket to happiness. People hear that, and deep down they secretly believe that such wisdom does not apply to them.

Let me repeat this critical point: We all secretly believe that if we were granted the million dollars and could walk away from our day job that we would instantly be happy forever and ever. Every person who works for a living believes this to some degree. We all suffer from the same delusion.

But leisure time does not make us happy. You may work 40 hours per week (or somewhat more or less than that) so right now you have no perspective. All you know is that you work hard and get too little money for it. And you have no free time. Or very little time to yourself. You want more. You are starving for early retirement, for the million dollar jackpot. This is the only perspective that you know about.

Bill Gates knows about another perspective. He knows what it feels like to not have to worry about money, about paying the bills. And guess what? He still works. And I have to quote him again, because it is so brilliant and insightful. He said: “I have to tell you, having billions of dollars is nice and all, but in the end…..it is still the same cheeseburger.”

And he is right of course. But when you are struggling with everyday life AND employment, you are starved for what you think is “freedom.” You think that a million dollars and a life of leisure would make you happy. And you secretly think that Bill Gates must have been rich for too long, and he has forgotten what it is like to have to slave away for 40 plus hours each week.

Well, you are wrong in that. We all suffer from the same delusion. That we would be free, that we would be happy, if only we had all the money in the world and all the free time in the world.

It’s just not true.

I know this, because I tested it out. I gained perspective that I used to lack. I worked freelance for 6 hours each week. I am not exaggerating here, I actually used an egg timer. I put in exactly six hours each week and I was creating a full time paycheck. That is not exactly retired, but it should have made me happier, right?

Nope. Didn’t work. That is not the ticket to happiness.

I wish I could tell you the great secret to what DOES make you happy, but I am still on a journey myself. I only know what I learned from working 3 years of only a six hour work week–that increased leisure time doesn’t increase your overall happiness.

Will he return to entrepreneurship again down the road? What wisdom has he picked up along the way to help him find contentment and joy in his life?

Now this is the crazy part. This question proves to me that I still suffer from the delusion that I described above!

I am currently working 40 hours per week again. I also still do freelance work for roughly 3 hours per week as well. And sometimes I feel drained from that, just like any worker might feel at times. And in those moments I think to myself: “Maybe I should try to start another business, or come up with some new income streams,” or whatever.

In other words, I still notice that I have those moments where I long for “freedom.” And it is always when work is the hardest, or is draining me of energy.

But I think I have a tiny bit more wisdom now in that I can realize today that free money or automated income streams are not the secret to happiness. There is more to life than leisure. There is more to happiness than leisure time and plenty of money.

If I do return to entrepreneurship it will be for a reason other than to satisfy the delusion. If I want to break free from day job tyranny, the quickest path at this point (for me in particular) is not to risk starting a business. In fact, it would be very easy for me to escape from day jobs through Jacob’s plan at Early Retirement Extreme. So I would just need to tighten up on frugality and maybe put in another 2 or 3 years of really hard work. That would be plenty to set me “free” permanently.

But I know today that this is not the kind of life that I want for myself. As horrible as it may sound, I am going to admit this potentially ugly truth out loud, I am going to own it: I want more consumption. I want to spend, I want to travel, I want to enjoy life with my fiance, and I don’t want to worry about watching every penny. That is a form of freedom as well. And if I have to put in 40 hours each week at the treatment center (where I am back working now) then so be it.
You can be free from a day job if you like, but at what price? You can’t indulge, have fun, travel, and so on….unless you watch every single penny. So in reality, you can still do all of that stuff on the cheap, but it takes a lot more energy, cutting corners, making sacrifices, and so on.
I am not saying that you need to be spendy or frivolous to be happy. But every person has to find that line for themselves. When I wrote “Day Jobs Suck” I thought that this line, for me, was living on $7,000/year and eating pasta in a can every day, and consequently doing every little work. I was wrong. I would rather work 40 hours and spend money like the average American. I know that sounds terrible to some but that is my own truth, the honest truth, it is what I learned about myself. I don’t want a life of frugality and 6 hour work weeks. I prefer a life of consumerism and 40 hour work weeks. That said, I am by no means a spendthrift now. My monthly living expenses are still pretty modest at this point.

Is anything still missing? Will something always be missing? Or is that all a myth?

I’m still on a journey. I know today that I am not a guru. I tried to play one in the past but those days are over. I hope I did not mislead anyone too badly. I think everyone has to achieve their goals in order to realize that “happiness was right under their nose all along.” If you never make it to that goal, if you never achieve that 4 hour work week or that life of leisure, then you will go on suffering from the delusion that the goal will make you happy. And it won’t. Reaching any single goal will never create permanent happiness. And yet that is the delusion that we suffer from.

The truth is that we need to learn to enjoy the process. To live in the moment, to find delight in everyday life. If I ever had any wisdom, that’s it. Beyond that it was all just a bunch of smoke and mirrors. I’m sorry. And yet I am relieved too, to be able to enjoy the process again, to delight in the every day. To find purpose and meaning in the mundane. To celebrate existence.

Has the seed of happiness been there all along?

Yes, it has. And it is for you too. But we still might have to reach certain goals in order to look back and realize that we had the seed all along.

We have to wake up to the fact that we don’t need to achieve anything or do anything specific in order to enjoy happiness and peace right now in this very moment. A bit hippy dippy, I know….but that doesn’t make it untrue.

Thanks again Chris for the questions. You rock dude.

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