Why Skills Matter More Than Goals

Welcome to the first Monday of the new year. It’s 2022 and if you’re like me, it still feels like 2019 was last year. Talk about a mindfuck.

This is that time of year where most productive and growth-minded people sit down and focus on their goals, their identity, and who they want to be in the fucking world. Maybe you like to set some goals, create a list, check it twice… then, like most people, quit the gym membership in February and go back to exactly what you did the year before.

I’ve written quite a bit about goals and new year’s resolutions in the past. Unlike most personal growth rituals, I’ve always refrained from shitting on New Year’s resolutions because I do believe there is something psychologically significant about year changes. We divide our lives into years, conceptualize our identities in years, so it makes sense that a turning of the year will coincide with some introspection and realignment of one’s values.

Instead, what I usually do is just talk shit about goals. How they can backfire. How they are often short-sighted and set for the wrong reasons.

But I’ve done that for plenty of years and you can go read that on the website.

Instead, this year, I’d like to talk about something adjacent to goals but arguably far more important: skills.

Because every year, everyone talks about losing ten pounds or changing jobs or getting a raise. They talk about motivation and identity and belief and persistence and all that crap.

But nobody talks about the skills required to do it.

And I don’t mean, “How to lift a barbell” skill. I mean far more subtle skills.

I mean the, “I get out of bed even when I don’t feel like it” skill. Because: yes, that is a skill. It’s something you can practice and get better at or forget if you stop doing it.

There’s the, “Saying no to dessert” skill, which is directly related to the, “staring angrily while other people eat dessert in front of you,” skill. This is a skill that I’m happy to report that after being an amateur at it for most of my life, I’m getting close to turning pro.

You can set goals for finding a relationship. But few people think about adopting and learning a new relationship skill. People say, “I want to meet someone special this year.” No one says, “I want to get better at connecting with others,” or “I want to learn how to be more vulnerable and own my flaws.”

These, too, are skills. They are something you develop with time, that you gain through experience, that you can consciously practice and attempt to foster within yourself.

So, my question to you is: What skills do you want to develop this year?

Not, “Who do you want to be in 2022?”

…but “What the fuck are you doing in 2022?”

What are you improving at? What are you learning and gaining? Instead of thinking about what you want to achieve in the new year, ask yourself, “What do I want to be good at that I’m not?”

Then get to work at it.

And the beauty of focusing on skills is that it’s never done. The old cliché is that we all set goals in January and give up on them by February. But if you focus on a skill, no matter how bad you are at it, you can still work on it in February, and March, on through the year.

Last month, I wrote about self-help in terms of developing personal growth skill-sets. Self-awareness is a skill. Managing emotions is a skill. Setting boundaries is a skill. Finding a sense of purpose and passion in what you do is a skill. Self-respect, in many ways, is even a skill.

This is why I’ve included tools in the Mark Manson Premium Subscription to help you develop these personal growth skills. Six skills, in particular: resilience, managing emotions, relationships, finding a sense of purpose, challenging your own beliefs, and living out your values.

Each “skill” has its own course dedicated to it, with instructional videos, a printable, guided workbook and dozens of real-world exercises. The idea is you watch the videos, work through the book, go out and try shit, fail miserably, come back and get a little bit better for the next lesson.

These courses are designed to crystallize the process first laid out in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. To give you a step-by-step implementation of each of the necessary skills to, well, not give a fuck.

So, figure out what skill it is you want to improve upon this year. Write it down and try to plan how you’re going to approach it. You can do it with the premium subscription, or on your own. I don’t give a fuck.

And me? Well, I think I still need to perfect my “angrily watch other people eat dessert in front of me” skill. That and my, “stop after two tacos,” skill, which has been non-existent until now.

When I get those two figured out, I’ll let you know.