Took a walk with my friend Tyler Cook today. We spoke briefly about the details of desires and how they can generate ambition. This in the wake of my utter failure to follow through on goals we both share. I had to ask. "Do you know what you really want?" Tyler operates with a high degree of self awareness and answered me with as truthful an answer as any human being can express.
The conversation, my own personal failures from the morning, and some measure of triumph that came later got me thinking about the way I generate my own ambition. It certainly doesn't come from nowhere, conjured from the ether like some magical spell compelling us to do stuff. Also, it doesn't come with pressure crafted by external sources. It comes from the lists we make for ourselves, along the path to getting what we want, and how well we keep track.
Here comes the shameless plug.
I bought an app for my iPad called Things. It allows you to organize your goals, ideas, and check them off as you complete them. It has a simple layout, a means to tag each task, make notes, assign due dates, and organize them in order. If you're in doubt of what to do next, it can help you if you've done the data entry work to truly enter in all your thoughts and dreams. It's even got a place for those things you want to do someday. Totally worth the 20 bucks I paid for it... but not for those features.
The best feature is the log it keeps. As you mark stuff off, it logs and dates each item adding it to a bone pile. Today, I checked my log that I started on at the beginning of April. Relative to working towards my major goals, I've hit twenty one milestones in the time I've been keeping that log. Checking that log is better than any antidepressant, a king size Mr. Goodbar, or a basket of fresh raspberries. Okay, maybe not better than the raspberries, but close.
It is important to keep careful track of your goals, seek them tirelessly, and strictly record what you plan to do next. More than that, you have to keep track of what you've accomplished and keep a record. There's a difference between keeping these these records as a source of continuing ambition, and presenting them as a component of our pride. When I go into a place of work where someone displays mementos of their previous accomplishments, they are either a highly successful professional, or a colossal douche-bag.
Seems to me, whether you have a ninety-nine cent legal ruled pad, or a five hundred dollar iPad with a twenty dollar Things App, keeping a detailed record of our goals is very important. This physical recollection has worked as a source of great ambition for me lately. I've always used lists, then filed them away with the projects in question, but I never kept a log of what I'd accomplished exactly.
Even as I write this, my mind's eye flashes to all the file folders stuffed with works and projects... accomplishments and intellectual adventures I have little recollection of, writings I grasp at when I'm at a loss for what to do next. If I'd kept a log all this time, I wonder if the perception of my work would be different.
I wonder if my own anxiety about everything I've done so far would be greatly reduced. The answer seems pretty clear looking at the twenty one things I accomplished in the last fourteen days since I started keeping track.