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Archive for November, 2009

12 Goals: One Goal, Each Month, All Year (Introduction)

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Twelve Goals (or 12 Goals) is a goal-setting program for beginners.  If you’ve never set goals before – or if you’ve tried and failed – Twelve Goals can help get you unstuck and on path to achievement.  There’s nothing magical or mystical about this process at all.  In fact, it’s downright boring and overly practical; you aren’t going to find any talk about magnetism, psychic powers, or the law of attraction.  What you’ll find is a systematic way to look at your personal goals over the course of a year, along with some step-by-step advice and accompanying tools to help you achieve them.

Twelve Goals is still very much a work in progress.  My hope is that the program will adapt and evolve over the course of 2010 based on feedback from you!  If you ever forget how to find these posts, they will be available at (or

The Idea

“What surprised me most were the ordinary methods successful people use to achieve all they achieve” – Malcolm Gladwell

Click for photo Setting goals is hard.  Achieving them is even harder.  Over the last decade, I’ve come to realize just how few people have any idea about what they want their life to be.  The majority of people take things day-by-day without a clear roadmap or direction.  Unfortunately this type of approach only works when you have an extreme amount of luck or an otherworldly amount of talent on your side.  Most people need a little more structure to their approach.

The big question: where do you start?  Some people jump right in after reading a personal development book and start thinking about their goals.  They work on this list for a few days, but without a blueprint for success, they eventually give up and fall back into their previous habits.  Habits that haven’t been able to generate the level of success they’re looking for.  The "ah-ha" moment for me came when thinking about what it is about the goals people set that has them giving up so quickly?

This led me to a simple conclusion.  Goals that are too big, too grand, simply don’t work.  Yet in order to qualify as a life goal, the goal by its very nature has to be big – otherwise it’s just a to-do item on a sticky note. So where does that leave us?  Well, right in the middle!  Goals that are scoped to approximately 30 days have an innate sense of urgency, yet there’s enough “runway” to achieve something pretty big.  When you break things down into 30 day milestones, you also have the benefit of being able to build on successes from month to month – you know that by April you will have achieved your January, February, and March goals, so you can make your April goal something that moves you that much further in the same direction.  Compounding success like this is quite powerful.

With this 30-day goal idea, I started searching through my research to see how I could group various concepts together to make Twelve Goals a more structured program.  The notion of 30-day goals is a start, but it certainly in and of itself isn’t enough to get people up off the couch.  That requires a little more.  After a few weeks of dissecting the data I’ve been collecting, I settled on a high-level structure that can serve as a basic template for people.  But more on that in a minute…

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Written by Mike Torres

November 15th, 2009 at 2:20 pm

My Happiness Interview: Bookstores, Hugs, and Making Movies

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Gretchen Rubin’s blog, The Happiness Project, is one of my all-time favorites. Every so often Gretchen interviews someone she knows and asks them the same short list of questions, each one related to happiness.  I thought it would be fun to do a mock interview with that set of questions for Refocuser.  Note that I don’t know Gretchen personally, so technically it isn’t really her asking the questions.  I’m just talking to myself here.  Check out all the Happiness Interviews over on The Happiness Project for the real deal.

What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?

PicCapturing photos and videos and reliving those memories with family.  I love to catch my 2-year old daughter doing something fun and unique; something only she does. It gives me this overwhelming feeling that I’m witnessing one of the most special things in the universe – something that’s never happened before – and I can’t help but feel like I’m helping create the narrative of her life.  Almost like I’m building memories with her that will someday encompass her early life experience.  We’re helping build her past.

Last summer I made a short movie with photos from my daughter’s first two years as we were getting ready to release Movie Maker (what I work on all day).  It was one of the best things I’ve done for myself.  I was able to express my feelings more completely and creatively through pictures and short sentences, and it’s a gift I’ll give her someday when she’d old enough to understand it.  Every so often I go back and watch it, and I find myself filled with pride (and nostalgia) as soon as I hear the first bar of the song start to play. <By the way, I actually got the inspiration for my movie from Gretchen’s The Years Are Short>

I feel like this is one way I tap into that “past positive” aspect of time perspective, which is so critical to overall happiness.

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

When I was 18, I thought happiness was something I would have “someday” when things settle down.  Until then, I’m go-go-go because I felt I had so much to do before I could really consider myself happy.  But one day fairly recently (during the last couple years) I realized that “happily ever after” doesn’t exist at all.  There isn’t a time in the future when all will be right with the world, when everything will be exactly how I had imagined it being.  And if there is, that feeling won’t last forever… it may not even last a week.  The present moment, the here & now, is the only thing that actually is.  I realized I couldn’t wait until everything is perfect to be content with life.  My perspective shifted for the better once I internalized this.

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Written by Mike Torres

November 5th, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Going Paperless at Home in 6 Easy Steps

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Click for photo For years people have been talking about the paperless office.  At Microsoft and other high-tech companies, there’s virtually no paper lying around – you almost can’t find any if you try – but for most businesses, the dream of a paperless existence is still a ways off.  At home it’s a different story entirely.  Every day more people are discovering the joys of going paperless in their home lives, even if they can’t do so at the office. 

My family went completely paperless last Fall.  The only paper we have in our house right now: books, my daughter’s artwork, and a few important documents locked up in a safe (birth and stock certificates, wills, and so on).  The thought of going paperless can be a little overwhelming – especially if you’re a trained packrat – but after a little work, it’s totally freeing.  Not having paper waiting for you on every surface in your home means you can focus on the things that matter, instead of shuffling paper from place A to B.

Like most things, the first thing you need to do is mentally and emotionally prepare for the shift.  This shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s a necessary first step.  Otherwise you’re going to find yourself fighting the process each step of the way.  This means you have to detach from the concept of “it isn’t real unless I can touch it".  It’s a process similar to the one you may have gone through with the switch from CDs to MP3.  After a while, you come to realize that not holding something doesn’t mean you don’t have it.

There are many benefits to foregoing paper and making the shift to digital.  Here are a few:

  1. It makes everything searchable.  If you need to find proof of a charitable donation, you just need to search your hard drive for the name of the organization (using Windows or Mac OS X).  If you want to get fancy and find all references to your mortgage loan number, it’s a split second away. 
  2. It means you’ll never lose it.  Now that you have everything you need in digital form, you can make sure you always have it handy.  It will forever be safe from fire, burglary, or misplacement.  Backing up your data is in (serious) need of a longer post, but for now check out the recommendation to backup to an external hard drive, a Windows Home Server, and an online service like CrashPlan from 12 Steps to Simplify Your PC (with Windows 7).
  3. It keeps your documents secure.  You can’t encrypt paper, and locks can be broken, but with the right digital encryption, you can keep your files safe from prying eyes.  The easiest way to do this is to use the built-in security features of Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Mac OS X.  On Windows PCs, the feature to look for is Bitlocker which will automatically encrypt hard drives for you (including external drives with Windows 7).  On the Mac there’s a similar feature called FileVault.  Part of going paperless is minimizing the amount of mail you receive as well, which drastically reduces the probability of identity theft.
  4. It frees up physical storage space.  Do you currently have a massive file cabinet full of paper?  Does just looking at it make you cringe because you know opening it would lead to paper strewn all over the floor?  Going paperless means you can get rid of that old filing cabinet for good – you’ll never need it again.  Replace it with a Zen garden or a piece of artwork!
  5. It unclutters all of your surface tops.  There’s no need to have designated areas for paper accumulation in your home when you could replace those areas with flowers.  Break out of the pile habit and start to free yourself.
  6. It unclutters your mind too!  Especially if you’re like me and stacks of paper calling out to you keep you from getting into flow.  Having an organized living space (and workspace) is a central component to focus.

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Written by Mike Torres

November 2nd, 2009 at 9:26 pm