virtue ethics for goals and feedback systems

Within in the span of a couple weeks, more than one person has talked to me about a desire for some sort of goal feedback system or structured goal system.

The obvious thing is a list of goals and someone holding yourself accountable to them, but that doesn’t seem to work for lots of people, including myself. Part of this, I think, is that explicating some things interferes with other things that are implicit. And some goals function better implicitly, some of the time. And lots of other stuff.

One thing that I do is not labeling my projects. In my organizational software, every single entry is titled the same, an “@” sign. This makes it easier to let projects evolve and stay fresh as you and the world change. These “freeform project buckets” are fairly lightweight and easy to mix and refactor and strategize with.

But they don’t give a sense of measurable or at least systematic approach towards one’s goals, with attendant increased motivation and clarity of choice and action.

I’ve just had the idea of a sort of virtue ethics for goals. That is, “decision-point touchstones,” or a set of “compasses,” instead of a “goal-state-to-be-mechanistically-approached.” (This is likely not an original idea.)

They could be a list, they don’t need to be well-specified; they could be brief. It might be possible to arrange them in a hierarchy, or that might not be a good idea. I’ve just started playing with this.

It seems like people have an implicit sense of whether an action will take them towards or away from a goal; they implicitly calculate a long change of nonmonotonicities and arrive at some sort of sense of “towards or away.” There just needs to be some sort of trigger to do it at the right times. And that could be having a list and intending to refer to it in moments of non-duty and non-obligation. And then doing so and making choices in reference.

And so even the most high-level goals can become something that can be used and acted-with-respect-to in this very moment. (I can actually see the possibility of hierarchies, here.)

(Note that there is still plenty of opportunity for goal conflict, false dilemmas, and all sorts of stuff that might have to be resolved with other tools. But I imagine this sort of framework is synergistic.)

In having this touchstone idea, and this relatively discrete action of referencing the goal list (and then choosing and noting towards or away), perhaps this is amenable to some sort of feedback system. And perhaps this idea will evolve. I may play with parts of this if it stands up to some initial hammering.

If you want to discuss some of this other interested people, please join the Slack chat (possibly with an anonymous email). I’ll make a new channel for this.


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