World History Archive/Alamy/Alamy

The Happiness Project recently posted Tolstoy‘s Ten Rules of Life, found in Tolstoy, Henri Troyat’s biography of the great Russian writer. Among maxims like “Get up early” and “Keep away from women” is one that we found incredibly clarifying and focusing:

“Have a goal for your whole life, a goal for one section of your life, a goal for a shorter period and a goal for the year; a goal for every month, a goal for every week, a goal for every day, a goal for every hour and for every minute, and sacrifice the lesser goal to the greater.”

We discovered that asking ourselves “What is our goal for this moment” can mean the opposite of the usual “goals-for-getting-ahead-and-keeping-tight-control-on-life” thinking. It makes us ask “What’s REALLY important here?”

3 replies on “tolstoy’s big rule for living

  1. My goal for the moment is to get off this computer, despite your wonderful post, and feed breakfast to my children!

  2. Here’s a thought: I’ve had an ongoing conversation with the painters in my classes about the difference between a goal & a result – goals seem pretty straight-ahead, eliminating sidetracks & possibilities on the way; looking toward a result seems to open possibilities and improvisations for multiple ways to accomplish the same end.

  3. Joan, I REALLY love this conversation with your painters, and the essential point: NOT to thwart or “eliminate sidetracks & possibilities on the way”.
    Bottom line, I think whatever word works for you is the way to go. I find it useful to set goals just as a guide, or a place to start, knowing that sidetracks, or discovering more important goals – to discard or amend the previous ones – are part of the deal.

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