Questioning Goals

Seh Hui Leong


'Someday my dream will come true…' by Seh Hui

Fresh out of college, I had always dreamed of becoming a millionaire. “With such amount of money, I’d then be financial free and I could a care-free life!” With that rosy goal brewing in my mind, I would constantly imagine of the things I could do with such an amount of money: the fancy studio apartment unit, the beaches I could go to, how proud my friends and family would be…

So I took the obvious path as all the kind adults has pointed out to me: study hard and land a job at a well-known, large-cap company. And the next thing I know, I got lucky – I got a prize in a programming competition and I landed my first job at one of the most prestigious IT companies in Malaysia. Just the mention of the company I work never fails to gather interest and talks of how lucky I am.

Fast forward six years and a healthy bank balance later, there’s nothing but a sense of emptiness and all I can see is the humongous gap between my current financial standing and the million dollar peak. Next thing I know is I’m starting to sense panic: that million dollar goal had become a means of sabotaging myself on a subconscious level.

What went wrong here?

Your goal does not indicate your intention of getting your ultimate prize

Let’s face it: it’s easy for me to say that I want to be a millionaire. Admirable goal to have, yes; but it comes with a fatal flaw: I couldn’t relate to this generic sounding goal at all! I’d easily imagine how the million dollars would look like, but that alone doesn’t triggers strong excitement. More importantly, it doesn’t induce me to take immediate steps towards achieving the goal. That alone makes the goal useless: it had the nice-to-have jingle with no holding power.

Tim Ferriss said it best in The Four Hour Work Week that ”People don’t want to be millionaires — they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy.” This exposes the real question for myself: “What are the things that I believe only millions can buy?”, to which I list down the following:

  • Living a passionate life
  • Work on something that matters with my coding skills and business knowledge
  • Taking mini-retirements to places like Japan and Norway, staying at each dream locale for at least 3 months
  • Learning to play a musical instrument gracefully

Now does this list excites me more than wanting a million dollars? Absolutely! Does these even need a million dollars? Not even close.

Comparing the original goal and this list, the key difference is that a ”being” goal doesn’t sound as exciting as an ”actionable” list of things that matters strongly to me. That’d be my lesson learned in this experience.

Now all I need is to take immediate steps to get closer to my actionable goals.

Written by

Seh Hui Leong

Python programmer by trade, interested in a broad range of creative fields: illustrating, game design, writing, choreography and most recently building physical things. Described by a friend as a modern renaissance man.