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Monk Notes 09 - How to Achieve Any Goal

With enough energy and focus you can achieve any goal.

Here are the three simple steps to success:


Step 1: Clearly define your goal.

Step 2: Break down the steps necessary to accomplish your goal.

Step 3: Direct all your energy, focus, and time towards achieving your goal. Don’t let anything get in your way, and be prepared to sacrifice anything and everything to ensure you achieve your goal.


If it seems simple, that’s because it is. If you follow this method, I am certain you will have a remarkably high likelihood of progressing rapidly towards said goal.

Not to say that you should.

In fact, I would recommend avoiding this approach to life at all costs.

In life, it’s far too easy to lie to ourselves.

We do it all the time. We tell ourselves we want one thing, when in fact we really want something quite different.

For example, if you were to write down of a list of what our cultural image of success looks like, you would probably come up with a list similar to this:

Successful people are...

  • Beautiful, fit, attractive

  • Wealthy, self sustaining, and independent

  • Powerful and willful

  • Intelligent and influential

But really, no one is born with a sense that success means any of these things. Few people carry these ideas into their late years, either. There seems to be a large block of time in the middle of our lives where we seem to fall asleep and forget what it is we really want. Our modern conception of success is learned, not inherent.

It’s a tragedy that many of us only awake to our true desires at the beginning and end of life. We as a culture have lied to ourselves about what’s valuable and worthwhile in life. And while we would love to say, “No, not me,” it’s unlikely you haven’t also bought in, at least on some level.

I know I certainly have. I talk to my wife about it all the time.

I’m deeply concerned about selling what my life could be for a cheaper imitation of itself, just because it may make me look better or make me feel more important. The cost of one version of success usually comes at the cost of another. And when the stakes are one’s own life - the costs can be very high.

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about the work of the Monk Manual is because it’s deeply personal for me. The battle for full(er) living is my personal battle. I often feel like I’m fighting for my life, because in many ways I am.

There is a tremendous danger when we optimize our lives around goals and pursuits at the expense  of the things we really want and know are best for us. We have the capacity not only to sacrifice higher goods for lesser goods for sustained periods of time, but also to feel great about it because the world is telling us we are “successful.” We follow the lead of those around us, and often that lead misleads.

Once you start playing the success game, it’s easy to get lost in it.

That is why focusing on the wrong goals is one of the greatest barriers to a full life.

What’s the solution? 

I believe it’s reflection and honesty.

It’s about actually taking the time to pause and say — enough is enough, time for a change. Time to reassess, course correct, and do some real soul searching. 

It’s been my experience that we tend to only reexamine our lives and priorities following a massive change or loss. I’ve often wondered why it takes a sickness, the loss of a job or loved one, or “hitting rock bottom” that tends to reorient people - and more importantly if it is possible for us to reorient ourselves earlier in life, and more frequently, by stepping back to see the bigger picture. Is it possible for us to choose what is best, right now, if we can just pause, take the time to reassess, and then begin again? If yes - how valuable could this practice be?


Thanks for making this another great year.

All the best,
Steven Lawson

“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.” - Maria Montessori


Life hacks are part of a 200-year-old movement to destroy your humanity - Quartz at Work

While a bit heady, this article gives an overview of how we arrived at a life hack culture, and how it is subtely, and not so subtely, leading us astray. LINK

4 questions to ask yourself when you have to make a big decision - Fast Company

It’s one thing to desire goals that can serve a deeper/fuller life, it’s another thing entirely to discern which goals will actually accomplish that task. To choose the goals that actually serve us, we need strong decision making strategies. This article is a good primer in some questions that can help you when you get stuck. LINK

50 ways to lighten up & become child like again - The Bold Life

We can learn a lot from the simplicity of children. In many ways they are the masters of the very things that we the taller children find most difficult - the art of play, lived curiosity, and engaged being. As you look out to 2021, consider adopting habits that will help you renew a sense of childlike wonder towards life. LINK

Featured Art: "Children in the Garden" - Władysław Podkowiński 1892