Hack Your Goals: Read These 9 (Short) Books
Goals should inspire outcomes, not impede progress.
We set goals to keep us focused, improve our output, and inspire us to be better people.
Unfortunately, goals can stop us from taking action. When a goal seems too big and intimidating, we don’t start on it.
If you are trying to learn a language or write a book, learning that first word or staring at that first blank page feels like an exercise in futility. How could you ever reach your goal with so far to go?
As Lao Tzu says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You can do the same with your goals.
You can hack your goals.
Find shortcuts to reach your goals, or set goals that are laughably easy. The point isn’t that the goal itself is the amazing outcome you want (like learning a language or writing a book). Rather, the goal starts you on the path to reach that aspirational final product.
Achievable goals might look something like this:
- If you want to learn a language, your goal is to learn one new word a day.
- If you want to write a book, your goal is to write two paragraphs a day (no matter how crappy they are).
- If you want to floss more, start by flossing between your two front teeth every day (per Tim’s advice) — that’s it.
Meeting easy goals like these builds confidence and, most importantly, creates momentum.
Once you start, you will find that you learn more than one new word, write more than two paragraphs, or floss more than two teeth. (Honestly, how foolish would you feel if you flossed two teeth and decided to stop?)
9 (Short) Books to Read
Every year I give myself a reading goal, which usually averages a book a week. I almost never reach it.
This year, I found a simple hack to reach my goal: read short books.
It sounds comical, but it’s true. If my key metric is the number of books read, I can find plenty of books that are powerful and short. I find that as I read more, I decide that I should read more. I keep my Kindle out, I read while rocking my baby girl to sleep, and soon, I’ll read longer books too.
If you have a reading goal — or just want some good, short books to read — start with these nine favorites:
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: The perspectives on race and American history in this short read will forever shift your political beliefs. As a parent, I found it heartbreaking and moving.
- Gratitude by Oliver Sacks: Dr. Sacks passed away this year. His reflections on life and death combine a lifetime of wide-ranging knowledge and perspective into a few powerful pages.
- We Are All Weird by Seth Godin: Learn why you should embrace your true self and how the ability to be ourselves is changing business, education, and society.
- The Flinch by Julien Smith: We are biologically wired to avoid pain and challenge. If you overcome this flinch reaction, you can achieve more.
- 6 Steps to Gender Equality by Curt Rice: Learn how and why gender diversity matters. Your views on hiring, collaboration, and equality will change after reading this collection of essays.
- Letters from a Stoic: Volume I by Seneca: Dive into Stoicism in this classic book of letters from ancient Greece. The advice feels more prescient than ever, and this read will undoubtedly lead you into many other Stoic titles.
- Daily Rituals by Mason Currey: This book is long, but it is a series of short reviews on how creatives throughout history have scheduled their days. Read about the people you are interested in, from Benjamin Franklin to Pablo Picasso to Franz Kafka.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: This well-known novel is a beautiful tale of finding life’s purpose across Spain and North Africa.
- The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: This is my favorite short story from my youth. I think of it as the original Alchemist, reminding of us of what matters in life.
If you’re a type-A personality or an overachiever, you are probably like me and set aspirational goals. Change your strategy, and create goals that are ridiculous easy. Or, find ways to reach your optimistic goals by taking shortcuts (like reading short books).
No one is keeping score. Goals are your North Star to make you a better person, whatever that means to you. Use simple goals as a way to kickstart your self-improvement.