Dream big dreams; only big dreams have the power to move men’s souls.

-Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome

It’s a paradox. It’s the big goals that excite us and get us to stop hitting the snooze button. They make us feel alive. They make the boring interesting, and the frustrating exciting.

But it’s the big goals that are the least likely to end up accomplished.

After a short burst of energy, the excitement and interest fizzles. And then, maybe, you get excited once again. And then, just like last time, after a short burst of energy, the excitement fizzles and takes you back to where you started, with little or no progress to show for it.

For much of my life, I’ve set only realistic goals. Goals that could be easily accomplished. After all, what’s the point of dreaming big if the obvious result is failure?

But I’ve gotten greedy. I’d rather get work done AND feel inspired.

I don’t want to have just enough motivation to get by. I want as much as possible. More motivation equals more energy and more life.

Are you greedy too?

Do you want more accomplishment, more energy, more happiness, more life?

Then welcome to the world’s best free guide to goal setting.

Inspiration Rollercoaster
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I just got back from a ten week journey through India. It started out as a two week sightseeing trip with the family, but my mother country had different plans for me.

It was day two, and we had just gotten back from viewing the sights of Delhi – an ancient fort, a modern bazaar, a few beautiful temples. We were all exhausted, so we went straight to bed.

But a few hours later, I woke for a midnight dalliance. I was driven by a compulsion.

I just had to go to the freaking bathroom.

It was a romance that grew only stronger with time – what was supposed to be just a once-off encounter became an unbreakable habit. It started with food poisoning, but turned into something more – cough, cold, sore throat, and finally, fever.

In between I also managed to visit the Taj Mahal, ride an elephant, and a bunch of other fun touristy stuff. Which was all nice, but not the reason I decided to say back an extra two months.

No, it wasn’t because I was trying to lose weight, although food poisoning can do wonders for the waistline. It was because I had encountered a philosophy of life which bewildered me, and because I’d spent half of my time sightseeing and the other half sick, I’d had little time left over for the real cultural experience – mingling with the locals.

It was my first trip to India since I was a baby – my parents left in their twenties, and for 22 years didn’t go back. Now as an adult, I understand why my parents kept me away for so long, and why they tried to convince me not to extend my trip – just like I try to escape the materialism of my culture, my parents tried to escape the ‘laziness’ of theirs.

But I had been intrigued, so I stayed an extra two months.

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The last time I was on a date, things got awkward.

In itself, nothing new – on my best behavior, I’m unique. Loosened up by alcohol, I turn a bit weird.

It started off normal. Following my own advice, we were eating at the highest rated Italian restaurant in New York City.

I hadn’t had a single expensive meal since quitting my eat-caviar-for-free consulting job. So I ordered an orgasm-in-your-mouth quality steak.

No surprise, it was so good that I wanted to savor the experience. Several times that evening I closed my eyes, stopped paying attention to the sounds around me, and focused exclusively on my sense of taste – on the complex, absolutely delicious waves of flavor washing over my tongue. My mouth may have curled into a creepy smile.

I tried explaining what I was doing – that it wasn’t because she was boring that my eyes were closing. I don’t know if she believed me, but whatever. It was worth it.

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The year is 2150. By some miracle, you’re still alive. The Happiness Machine has finally been invented.

At a cost of just $100, you can get one for yourself. It’s like a non-stop dose of heroine, ecstasy and marijuana combined, but without any of the negative side-effects – no brain damage, no poisoning, no psychological impairment. Best of all, there’s no dependence.

The Happiness Machine feels just as good on day 200 as it did on day 1, inducing a permanent state of euphoria. The only drawback is that once you’ve plugged yourself in, there’s no going back – the euphoria is permanent.

Would you use it?

There’s a point in my life when I might have answered yes. I’ve spent many of the past 10 years of my life not happy – the thought of the few and far between moments of happiness becoming permanent would have been alluring. But even when depressed, I don’t think I would have used the Happiness Machine.

Because there’s more to life than happiness.

There’s making a difference, accomplishing things, leaving a legacy, having a family.

That was the core message of a recent, popular article by the Atlantic: There’s More to Life Than Being Happy.

I half-way agree – the pursuit of more happiness is only one of many important life goals.

But this article really pissed me off.

Scattered throughout the article are pieces of poisonous, toxic waste. They read like harmless ideas, but represent gross misrepresentations.

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All action is based on prediction.

Every time you do something, its because you or your subconscious brain has predicted that doing so will leave you better off than the alternative.

Decide to stay with your romantic partner? It’s because you predict they’ll make you feel better than being alone or with someone else.

Spend money? It’s because you predict purchasing that object will make you feel better than buying nothing or something else.

Perfect the art of prediction, and no joke, you can take over the world. You’d be able to pick the best romantic partner, best career, best stock portfolio, best education, best everything. No more returns.

In the form of conscious deliberation and subconscious emotion, prediction directs our behavior.

We’re passingly good at it.

We feel that spending time with friends and family will make us happy. So we do it and feel happy.

We deliberate that going for a jog will give us a high. So we do it and feel high.

We deliberate that slacking off at work will get us fired, which in turn will make us feel bad. So we work hard, keep our job, and avoid feeling bad.

But when it comes to money, passingly good becomes pathetically wrong.

Desire distracts.

A college student dreams of becoming a lawyer making a cool $150,000. He’s been told he’s good at arguing and has an eye for detail, he’s hard working and ambitious, and most important of all, he wants that $150,000.

Lawyers are four times more likely to develop depression and two to six times more likely to commit suicide.1,2

Desire distracts  – only 4 in 10 lawyers would recommend their career to others (this, from the American Bar Association, not some crackpot researcher with an agenda against the profession). What happened to quality of life?

Why gamble and hope to be one of the 40%?

A yelper has spotted a new Mexican restaurant. It’s got a bad rating, but why not give it a try – it’s got a great looking menu, complete with too good to be true pictures of its food.

Desire distracts – less than 1 in 10 yelp users enjoy their meal at a low rated restaurant.3 What happened to quality of food?

Why gamble and hope to be one of the 10%?

Just because the college student desires to be a lawyer, or the yelper desires to eat at that Mexican restaurant, doesn’t mean that doing so will make them happy.

The strength of your desire DOES NOT EQUAL the amount of happiness lying at the end of the road. 

Usually, it does, but when it comes to money, shi*t goes crazy – our desire gets hijacked for purposes not our own.

I’d prefer me and my family to be the ones benefiting from my earning and spending behavior. All too often, I’m not. All too often, we’re not.

Considering how much of our lives revolves around money, that’s a problem. This desire hijacking is the biggest obstacle to our successfully buying happiness.

But there’s a fix – free and easy to implement.

No, not hiding in a cave and trying to avoid the 1,000+ daily desire distorters (also known as marketing messages) thrown our way.

Something much easier.

You wouldn’t believe me if I told you now, so first, more on how money makes your usually intelligent brain go haywire.

  1. Your memory becomes foolish.
  2. Your extrapolations become foolish.
  3. Your desire becomes foolish.

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Confident that you’ll achieve your New Year’s resolution?

Most people are. Only 12% succeed.1

88% of New Year’s resolutions fail.

Let’s make this time different.

Gamble and wish for the best, or take the long-term approach and guarantee eventual success.

Develop The Skill of Accomplishment

Accomplishment is not one inspirational technique or burst of willpower away.

It’s a skill, with lessons to practice and techniques to internalize.

The skills on this page have been tested by over 100,000 people across 103 scientific studies, to:

  • Improve diabetes self-management.74
  • Increase fruit consumption by 117% for seven days.42
  • Reduce calorie consumption by more than 100 per day.77
  • Take faster action towards cutting back on bad habits.78
  • Reduce alcohol consumption by 25% for a month.43
  • Reduce relapse.101,102
  • Increase work speed.6
  • Increase the likelihood of finishing a project on time.48,49,100
  • Increase ease of effort and work endurance.16,17,26,30
  • Score 20 to 35% higher on a series of foreign language learning quizzes.44
  • Complete 60% more practice questions in preparation for the PSAT.41
  • Spend 22 to 37% longer studying for a midterm.49

Accomplishment is hard. It has never in the history of human-kind ever been so unnatural.

Our brains weren’t designed to resist fatty food or exercise because the doctor said so.

Luckily, we happen to be the most adaptable species in the galaxy. We can rewire our instinct driven behavior into goal driven behavior.

Done right, we can even make pursuing our goals enjoyable.

Let’s take a look at the achievement equation. To hack it, we must first understand it.


Luck is uncontrollable and willpower requires too much effort, so let’s put those aside.

↑Value, ↑Likelihood, ↓Delay, ↓Distractions, ↑Expertise → ↑Success

If you’re not making the progress you want, one or more of those factors needs tweaking.

Let’s get started.
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