by Niall Doherty

As you probably know, I like announcing my goals here on the blog, as I find public accountability works pretty well for me.

Or does it?

Studies have shown that many people who announce their goals publicly are actually less likely to achieve them1. Apparently our brains mistake the pats on the back we receive for making such big, public commitments to our goals for the positive rush of actually accomplishing them.

So in this post I’m going to update you on some goals I’ve announced here on the blog over the past eighteen months, and we’ll see just how full of shit I am 😉

1. The five tongues of awesome

First announced in July of last year, this is my goal to become fluent in the five most widely-spoken languages in the world: Mandarin, Spanish, English, Hindi-Urdu, and Arabic. And by “fluent”, I mean good enough to deliver an effective speech to 100 native speakers in each language.

I did give myself until the age of 40 to accomplish this goal (so I still have another 9.5 years), but over the past twelve months I’ve done virtually nothing to progress.

I’ve also been reconsidering which languages to learn. To me, becoming fluent in another language is really only valuable if it allows me to communicate with a large amount of people I wouldn’t otherwise be able to communicate with. Having traveled around India for several weeks now, I don’t see much use in learning Hindi, since most people I meet here speak very good English (and many people in the south don’t speak Hindi at all).

All in all though, I’m still very interested in becoming multilingual. This goal is always in the back of my mind, but I doubt I’ll make any big progress on it until I get to South America (hopefully by 2014) and immerse myself in Spanish again.

2. Travel around the world without flying

I wrote recently about crossing the one-year mark with this goal. I’m stuck in India at the moment, trying to find a way to Southeast Asia, but my determination hasn’t wavered and I’m still loving the journey.

3. Learn touch typing

Back in February I wrote that I was going to work hard to improve my touch typing speed, having realized that my “hunt and peck” method of typing was highly inefficient. I’m pretty happy with how far I’ve come since. I committed to 20 minutes a day of touch typing practice (mostly using TIPP10), and I don’t think I missed a day for about six months. As a result, I’ve improved my typing speed to an average of about 72 words per minute, and I continue to get faster.

4. Add muscle

The original goal, as stated back in May: Add 20 lbs of muscle in two months on a vegetarian diet. I ended up adding about 12 lbs, as reported here.

I didn’t give up on muscle-building after that though. I kept going to the gym regularly while in Kathmandu and since I’ve been here in Kochi I’ve been doing body weight exercises five mornings out of six. I have no idea what weight I am now, but I’m pretty happy with how I look. When I get to Thailand and get settled there I’ll join another gym and keep a closer measure of how I’m progressing.

Who knows, I might even post more photos of me in my underwear! (If you’re looking for the subscribe form, it’s here :-P)

5. Become a paid newspaper columnist

The original goal, as stated back in July: Become a paid columnist for a national print publication in Ireland. I was hoping to accomplish that within a month, which, in hindsight, was way too optimistic.

I tracked the time I spent working on this goal, and it amounted to almost 17 hours in July alone, and several more since. I made dozens of phone calls to newspaper and magazine editors in Ireland, emailed them article pitches, recorded personalized videos, sent them postcards… pretty much everything I could think of. So far the only success I’ve had was getting a second article published in the Irish Examiner.

I have to admit that my enthusiasm for this goal has waned a bit. All that effort and very few positive results takes its toll. I’ve put it on the back-burner for now, but may take another crack at it when I get settled in Thailand.

6. Operation Kathmankok (a.k.a. the traveling book launch)

The original goal, as stated back in August: Travel from Kathmandu to Bangkok without flying while prelaunching my book in four parts and having the whole thing released for reals by October 1st.

I’m behind schedule on this. Neither of the two routes I proposed for traveling to Bangkok worked out as I’d hoped, and so I’m still left searching for a way to get there without flying.

I did start prelaunching the book, and you can now download all four parts for free via the Kathmankok Facebook group (please send me your feedback!). I plan to have the whole thing polished up and available for sale on Amazon by November 1st.

7. Increase income to €3,000 a month

I announced this goal only about a month ago. While I don’t have anything concrete to report yet, so far I feel like it’s going pretty well.

In many ways, I actually feel like this is the most important goal of all for me right now. If I can play it smart and manage to increase my income without increasing my workload, I’ll have much more time and energy to spend on the vast amount of things I want to learn and experience.

Let’s review

So overall, how have I fared with the above goals? If I’m being brutally honest with myself, I’d have to say not very well.

I seem to have a tendency to be over-optimistic when setting such goals, believing I can make progress on them much faster than I usually do. I’m not sure if this over-optimism is such a bad thing though. I wonder if I would have even attempted some of the above goals in the first place if I’d been more realistic in estimating the time and effort required to achieve them.

I’m inclined to take comfort in that old optimists’ creed: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Still, I’ll try to keep in mind my newly-exposed track record of goal achievement the next time I set a big one. Because it’s too easy to get disheartened down the road when a goal proves much tougher than anticipated.

Reviewed your own goals lately?

Here’s me encouraging you to do a similar review of your own goals. What does your track record look like? How often do you achieve what you set out to achieve? What can you learn from your past experiences to help you set better goals in the future?

Show 1 footnote

  1. Watch Derek Sivers talk about such studies in this 3-minute TED Talk