The Cardinal Error of Aspirational Thinking

Don't just set goals. Become who you aspire to be.

“Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” — Louisa May Alcott

The cardinal error of aspirational thinking is the futile act of setting goals as the person you are today. This is precisely what happens with most New Year's resolutions. The person you are today is simply ignorant of how and what to change. That terribly thick-headed person often looks for quick, easy fixes in the form of shiny new fads.

The problem is one of perspective.

An aspiration is not just a big goal in life that you hope to achieve. It is actually about becoming the person you are meant to be. It is a way of life that aligns with your meaning and purpose. It is about changing your identity.

Setting goals right out of the gate is therefore akin to placing the cart before the horse. You must first ask a simple question.

What would that person (who you are to become) do?

According to James Clear, “every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become,” so make each one count.

If you cannot answer the question through your own objective research, then ask another simple question.

Who will know the answer to the first question?

That person could be someone you know or someone in your existing network of family and friends. If not, seek out people who have become who you aspire to be via books, articles, social networks, etc.

Take small steps toward your aspiration. Keep the first question front and center before every action. Use the second question when necessary. They will both serve you well.