#50: How to Set Goals According to Prolific Creators

New ways to look at goal-setting.

True or false: Since January, you’ve received tons of emails about New Year’s resolutions, goal-setting, and 2023 being YOUR year.

I did too. At first, it was annoying to see similar-sounding subject lines cluttering my inbox. But some got through to me because they offered pieces of insightful advice for creators starting out like me.

Here are my notes for each concept inspired by prolific creators such as Mark Manson, Rowena Tsai, Mike Crittenden, and more.

Set goals YOU can control

Last January, I downloaded haatch and set mine:

  1. Build my email list from 40 to 1,000 (sounds familiar?)
  2. Make $10k from side projects (heard this song before?)
  3. Gain 1,000 Instagram followers

I felt good about it, like I was on the right track. Until I read Dylan Redekop’s Growth Currency newsletter (the last edition of 2021).

He talked about focusing on things we can control because we “can’t force people to subscribe. Nor can [we] force people to read [our] work, follow [us] on Twitter, listen to [our] podcast or watch [our] TikToks.”

He wrapped his points up with an encouraging note:

"The more you do the things you do have control over, the more the other things will follow. With just a little intention, quantity will lead to quality."

Subscribe to Growth Currency here. (Unsponsored — I just love his work!)

I thought about this and reread his email. After a few days, I edited my list of goals to this:

  1. Send 24 high-quality, written-from-the-heart newsletter issue this year
  2. Create 1 Gumroad product every quarter
  3. Publish 100 atomic essays

Dylan’s view on goal-setting reminded me of the stoic philosopher Epictetus.

“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.” ―Epictetus, The Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness and Effectiveness

Set your focus on skills development, not goals

So, you’ve set a goal. Now, what?

The brutal truth is most of us stop there. We dream up goals, create aesthetic vision boards, and recite mantras to “manifest” what we want to achieve. As the badass thinker and author Mark Manson writes in his newsletter Mindf*ck Monthly,

…every year, everyone talks about losing ten pounds or changing jobs or getting a raise. They talk about motivation and identity and belief and persistence and all that crap.

But nobody talks about the skills required to do it.

Count me guilty of this!

He further notes,

You can set goals for finding a relationship. But few people think about adopting and learning a new relationship skill.

People say, “I want to meet someone special this year.” No one says, “I want to get better at connecting with others,” or “I want to learn how to be more vulnerable and own my flaws.”

One of my relationship goals for the year was to “Invest in relationships and build healthier ones.” Such a beautiful thing to hear — yet very vague. So after reading this edition of Mark Manson’s newsletter, I identified two areas where I suck at (in terms of relationships) and wrote the skills I wanted to improve:

  1. I like to burrow in my introvert hole and I don’t reach out often. So this year, I will improve my communication skills by checking in on my friends and loved ones every week.
  2. I suck at gifting — it’s my last love language. Last month, I set up a stash on Tonik so I’d find it easier to buy thoughtful gifts without worrying and breaking my budget.

How about you? What skills are you planning to improve this year so you can get closer to your goals?

The beauty of focusing on skills is that it’s never done.” — Mark Manson, Mindf*ck Monthly (January 3, 2022)

How your values, goals, and systems can work together

After all the goal setting, habit tracking, and willpower overdrive in January, most of us fall off the path we’ve planned.

Not because we’re inherently lazy or incompetent. But as one of my favorite creators, Rowena Tsaisuggests it may be because we lack these 5 things:

  • Confidence
  • Purpose
  • Systems
  • Focus
  • Right environment

All of my goals can be traced back to the values I’ve identified. After reflecting on what matters to me most, I’ve set goals aligned with my values, then set up systems to support those goals.

Values → Goals → Systems


Value: Creativity

Goal: Write 100 atomic essays

System: Sit at my desk every 9 PM, write for 25 minutes, and ship.

Try it if you haven’t yet. It might just work.

I used this free Notion worksheet from Rowena to get clarity and set goals for 2022. You can get it here: https://ntn.so/rowenastemplate

Set goals as if you’re alive

Because you are!

Never set a goal that a dead person can do better than you” — Mike Crittenden

This is for you if you ever wanted to:

  • Stop drinking too much soda
  • Stop bingeing Netflix shows in one day (How many hours did it take you to finish All of Us Are Dead?)
  • Stop complaining

This type of goals is what a dead person can do better than you.

They couldn’t drink soda, binge the latest show, or complain. So when setting goals, the keyword to avoid is “stop.”

The alternative to this is going deeper as to why you want to quit something. And then focus on that. Here’s how I tweaked my very own “stop” goals to apply this concept:

  • Drink tea and fruit juices more often
  • Allocate Netflix time to reading
  • Write 3 things I’m grateful for every day

Doing this made me more excited to achieve said goals — not dreadful. Pretty effective in avoiding reactance bias too.

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