Welcome to “How I Stay Sane,” a weekly column where real dads talk about the things they do for themselves that help them keep grounded in all the other areas of their life — especially the parenting part. It’s easy to feel strung-out as a parent, but the dads we feature all recognize that, unless they regularly take care of themselves, the parenting part of their life will get a lot harder. The benefits of having that one “thing” are enormous. Just ask Greg Hansen. The 30-year old has been writing a long-term and short-term goals list every day since he was 20 and, he says, the benefits are enormous.
I first started writing goals when I was 20. I was about to graduate college and I realized that I knew a lot of people who had already graduated who were older than me, and many of them were still in the same spot that I was when I was 20. So that’s when I started writing the goals. From there, it grew and grew into big goals, five year goals, 10 year goals, and 30 year goals. I wrote them down at night and in the morning.
The way I came up with my goals was really by asking the question: If I only accomplished these things tomorrow, would I be happy with today? And that’s one of the key metrics that helps me define what the goal actually is.
My daily goals are the things that should be in light of the bigger goals. Today, for example, I have five things written down, and every one of those is going to go to my bigger goal of growing my company.
In general, my goals are mixed. Some are very large, like, by the time I’m 40 I’ll be able to retire as a multi-millionaire. That’s a big, long-term goal. That doesn’t mean that I’ll stop working. I have ten years. But it gives me a long term direction. Another goal would be something like, I owe no debt other than what people pay on my behalf. That allows personal freedom in my life, but professionally, it means that I own a handful of properties that pay me income. So it’s a mix.
One goal I write down every day is a goal for the future, but it’s written as a present-tense. The goal is: “I am a patient and loving father and husband. I love my children and wife more and more every day.” That really forces me to not only think about it on a daily basis, but to think about the type of man I want to be in the future, and what it takes to be able to say that. To say that I am a patient man means that I have to take actions every day, today, even when my six year old is yelling at me.
A big part of it comes down to looking at the marriage as a team. My wife always uses the phrase, jokingly, although it is serious, that teamwork makes the dream work. Some of the things that might frustrate me today are valid, but if my goal is to be a patient and loving husband and to adore her more every day, then in the long run it’s not worth it to fight over something or to spar back or to be short tempered. What would 60-year-old Patient Greg say to me today? That really helps me look at and think about how I treat my wife.
I think it’s a combination of really feeling it and faking it until I make it. That’s why so many people write goals in the present tense. I think there’s a lot of value to that. So to say, I am a patient and loving husband, forces me to recognize the gap of where I am today and where I need to be. I think there is that element of fake it to you make it. Just because you might be faking it and you’re not perfect doesn’t mean that there’s not value.
My wife notices and appreciates what I do. There are simple things – like, right now, on my laptop, in front of me I have a sticky note. It has on it five ways I can show appreciation to my wife. She can physically see that; she appreciates that it’s at least there, that at least I see it. On a deeper level, although I fail, stumble, sometimes become frustrated and impatient, I’m working at it. She does see the improvement. I think for most people, if we know others are trying, we appreciate the effort. I think a lot of grace happens when we know that people are at least trying their best, because that’s all we can really ask for.
We have a saying in my company: we don’t expect perfection but we strive for it. I think the same can be said for goals. It’s okay if we don’t reach them, but to reach no goals is much worse than to reach half of the goals. At least the goals will force us to stretch. The first big goal I had when I was 20, for example, was that I wanted to have articles that I’ve written published. That took a long time. Eventually I got there. Sometimes, life just wants to knock you off the goals, but that’s okay. Make it a goal to stick with your goals, right?