MORE goals you have, the less likely any one of them will be
achieved. The more goals you have, the slower your progress on
any one of them. Slow progress is demotivating. Anything you
do that slows down your accomplishment or makes your goal seem
less possible will suck out your motivation like a lamprey.
Prune your goals so you have fewer goals,
and you automatically preserve your motivation better.
There is only one problem with this: Complexity
will keep creeping in. The natural drift is toward complexity.
You have only 24 hours in a day. Time is
limited, and if you want to stay motivated, your goals need to
be limited too. Not limited in the sense of setting only small
goals, but limited to a small enough number that they dont
bog you down with complexity. Keep them trimmed and your motivation
can stay high. Keep them trimmed and progress will be rapid and
Stephen Hawking, the physicist and mathematician,
has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease that handicaps his
movement and speech. Hawking wouldnt wish his disease on
anyone, but in many ways it is the secret of his success. His
condition has forced him to limit the scope of his activities.
Many common distractions and diversions were unavailable to him,
so he concentrated on what was available (using his mind) and
became a world-renowned thinker and theoretician the top
thinker in his field. His condition forced him to keep his goals
pruned, allowing him to focus.
Im referring to this as pruning
goals rather than dropping some goals because the
process has to be continual. Just as tree branches keep growing,
your list of goals will keep growing. You dont prune once
and for all you cant. You have to keep doing it.
Every year, you prune an apple tree and
the tree becomes healthier, it produces more apples, and the
apples are bigger. Thats the purpose of pruning, and the
same goes for you and your goals. Your goals can reach greater
fruition, and can happen faster, if you keep your goals pruned
to just a few, or even one.
You may only have one main goal right now.
You may not have any goals to prune at the moment. But give it
some time. Goals tend to increase and accumulate, weighing you
down and slowing progress, until you are overwhelmed with too
much to do and too little result showing from all your effort.
This is very demoralizing. The way to prevent it or cure it is
to sit down and list your goals, and then try your best to prune
some of them. Either give them up, or put them in a file to be
This is hard to do. And its hard
for the same reason its hard to throw away something you
own, even if you havent used it in years. After all, you
may still want to use it in the future, right? In effect, that
object represents a goal. It might be an old tennis racket you
havent used, but it represents a goal to play tennis some
There is a certain degree of built-in greed
we all have. We want to own, we want to accumulate. Not just
physical possessions but also future accomplishments. Thats
why giving up a goal is difficult.
But it has to be done. You have to throw
away perfectly good and desireable goals. You have to curb your
natural greed by practicing the virtue of simplicity. Learn to
appreciate simplicity and focus, and appreciate them so much
you are willing to suffer the pruning.
The more goals you have, the more distracted
you are. And Im not just talking about your stated goals.
Someone might spend three hours a day watching television and
yet not think of it as a goal. They might spend more actual uninterrupted
time watching television than any other activity, and not ever
consider it one of their goals. But it is functioning as a goal.
And a very important one, given how much time they spend on it.
Relaxation or entertainment or escape must be an important goal
If you do something like that, where the
amount of time you spend on something doesn't match how important
you feel it is, it's time to prune that goal. You dont
have to go overboard. Everyone needs a certain amount of downtime.
But you can prune until it reflects your true values.
To stay motivated you need to be very selective
about what goals you choose to attempt. And you need to regularly
prune the extra goals you have accumulated. Keep your goals narrowed
down to only a few or even just one, and you will be able to
focus, and focus is one of the most important factors of motivation.
You are more motivated when you are more focused. And the more
goals you have, the less focused you are.
The fewer your goals, the more focused
you are. The more focused you are, the faster your progress,
and fast progress is enlivening and motivating, so it can become
an upward spiral. To help make this happen, keep your goals pruned.
This is one of seven principles of Cultivating Fire.