I've been developing and/or architecting software for the past 25 years. At one point, I thought I was done with computers and wanted to find out how humans work. So I started to study Psychology and then completed an Advanced Diploma in Executive and Personal Coaching.

Working in both fields, taught me some interesting lessons. There are parallels.

We build AI by modelling our brains. Why not try to apply an engineer's mindset to model our lives?

Let's start at the beginning.

How to transform your ambitions into achievable goals with an engineer's precision

When you head out to create a brand-new piece of software, you start with the users in mind. You describe the personas that will interact with it, create epics that describe the big items, user stories based on these epics and slowly flesh out more and more details.

At the start, you don't want to pre-solution! You want to describe the WHAT.

What do you want to achieve in the next 5, 3, 1 years?

To make it relatable, let's choose the epic of Health. Who doesn't want to be healthy? To be healthy, you might need to lower your blood pressure, lose fat, improve your endurance etc.

So the Epic would be: I want to live a healthy life.
Your user story is: As a healthy person, I have between x and y % of body fat, so that I am not at risk to develop y. (I'm leaving out exact details as I am just proofing a point and this is not medical advice.)

The same goes for blood pressure and other health markers like VO2 max etc.

Decode the basics: How to set clear, measurable goals

You need to be very specific.

I'm sure you heard of SMART goals. These are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.

The same applies to creating software. Once you have your epic and user stories, what you want to achieve, you have to make it tangible.

In software development, there is a principle that is called test driven development. You write the test case first. This test case will fail, of course! The function is not yet implemented.

In real life, this could mean that you want to fit into an old pair of jeans again, or hit a certain number when measuring blood pressure.

Strategic execution: Break down big goals into actionable sprints

Once you have your epics, user stories and test criteria, it is time to plan how to achieve these.

For weight loss this could be to eat unprocessed foods, cut down on sugar and so on. These depend on where you are starting from.

It is important that you break it down. If you want to improve your aerobic fitness, you might want to start running. Don't go out and book a marathon. Start with a 5k race or a park run. If you never ran before, take your time. If your goal is to run a marathon in 2–3 years, you could plan to run a half-marathon next year. Within the first year you could run a 10k and within the first 6 months a 5 k.

This 5k is what engineers call the MVP β€” the minimum viable product.

Pivot and adapt: Agility and goal planning

Let's say you have developed your MVP, you ran the 5k, but you hate it!

Your users just don't click past the login screen. You just don't like running. That's OK! That is actually fantastic. Why? You haven't spent 5 years yet! You only spend a few weeks, you got fitter and you learned a valuable lesson. Running is not for you.

Then you want to adapt and pivot.

Your main goal, the epic of being healthy, hasn't changed. The WHAT hasn't changed. You still know you want to increase your endurance. If this happens to you, then it is time to find something else that achieves the same result. You could try hiking, rowing, biking ... the possibilities are endless.

You don't have to change the WHAT, all you have to change is the HOW.

Do you want to try this? Here is how:

Your Action Items:

  1. Write your epics and user stories: Write down your epics and flesh out your user stories. These are the main themes in your life and what you want to achieve for each.
    2. Write down the test case: How will you measure that you have achieved each user story/goal? I.e. be able to run a 5k without stopping.
  2. Write down the HOW: Write down how you want to achieve the first milestone. While you are implementing it, ask yourself if this is HOW you want to achieve the main goal/epic. If you don't like it, pivot!

Have you tried this, or are you using a similar approach? Let me know!

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Last Update: January 03, 2024