Goal Setting Heuristics

Recent events have called for a revisiting of my mental model of goal setting. Essentially, how to set goals and accomplish them. This is, surprisingly, one of the areas in my thinking that has seen the biggest change in the past year. Here’s a helpful recounting of the changes and the constants in the style of the exceedingly popular 12 Rules for Life.


  1. "You can do anything you set your mind to": This is just plain wrong. I didn’t realize how big of a role this played in my psyche and desire for success. The biggest problem with this pithy saying is the “anything.” There are way more constraints on what you set your mind to than you realize. Further, a lot of our goals are not things that we organically think up and “set our mind to.” There are hidden motives, many of which are deeply social.

  2. Lofty goals: This has only changed marginally. Youth deceives us on the difficulty of achieving goals that are, by their nature, lofty and appealing. That said, when your view is tempered by the difficulty of an endeavor, the decision to pursue it anyway is admirable.

  3. Inspirations: Don’t underestimate the power of ideas, no matter how they come. It takes a pearl of age-old wisdom to be presented in a certain way that will inspire action with meaningful results.

  4. Pursuit: Act in accordance with the future you want to see but don’t be deluded that it will come to be. In a lot of ways, struggle a lot to achieve your goals but don’t fail to observe the future you’re creating as a result, they are usually not a one-to-one match. This means there are other opportunities present.

  5. Success: It is simultaneously immediate and delayed. The immediacy of the success tastes better when savored over time as opposed to the instantaneous ravishing.


  1. The law of compounding: The law of compounding is still, by far, one of my favorite laws because it’s essentially a cheat code that favors the consistent.

  2. Goals: You are wasting your life without goals.

  3. Values: Values change.

  4. Advice: Advice is still undersupplied in the market.

  5. Accepting advice: The greatest deadweight loss in the market for self-improvement, in my opinion. At the margins, take as much advice to heart as possible and implement them.

  6. Goal setting under uncertainty: Accept and Mitigate the uncertainty!

Certainty Rating: 73%