To Be, To Do, To Have : Three Kinds of Goals

When thinking through personal goals, there are three categories of goals that we might make:
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  • To Be Goals – These are self-improvement.  The involve developing skillz. Examples include learning a new language, getting more sleep, being more punctual. You might think of these as goals that answer how you want to be characterized.
  • To Do Goals – These are experiential. They involve desirable adventures.  Examples include traveling to china, enjoying a meal at Alinea ($210 pp), or going to an olympic games.  These are the things people typically put on their “bucket list”.
  • To Have Goals – These are typically material, but sometimes situational (e.g. have a success business).  They involve possessing something we perceive as enjoyable. These are probably the most common type of goals people fantasize about but are likely to be the least satisfying when realized.

This list is in order from most difficult to least difficult to achieve as well as from most satisfying to least satisfying.  In addition, “To Be” goals will often enable the “To Do” and “To Have” goals.

I like this framework for considering goals that are worthy of pursuit. I hope that it is helpful for you as well.

[Credit: I came across this framework originally in Tim Ferris’ The 4-hour Workweek which I don’t recommend, but there were a couple of useful ideas as there are in most books]

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3 responses to “To Be, To Do, To Have : Three Kinds of Goals”

  1. David Delp Avatar

    You probably know my bias, but here it is:

    Focus on the doing, and the being and having will follow.

  2. Matthew Avatar

    I was thinking of your framework as I wrote this article. Clearing doing is the atom of action, and action is the catalyst of change. Only be doing can we be. But it is possible to do without having a goal of being.

  3. John Avatar

    Interesting article, Matt, but I’ve always held to a slightly different interpretation.

    Suppose, for example, that I have a WANT (i.e. a goal). In order to HAVE
    this want, I can work backwards from my HAVE to determine what I need to DO
    in order to have my want. Once I know what I need to do, I can figure out
    what I would need to BE. Thus, BEing leads to DOing, which leads to HAVing.

    The final construct comes with middle ages — for some of us — and that
    is GIVING. Thus, a simple and practical formula for living is Be, Do, Have, and Give.

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