How to Set Goals for Your Life (Even if You Don’t Know What You Want)

By: Peter Nguyen

One night in Chicago, an unsigned producer was showing legendary rapper Talib Kweli a gameplan backstage. 

It was an outline of his new career as a rapper.

He showed Talib his list of albums he’s going to put out. How he sequenced out the tracks to make the albums flow. He shared the album names, pointing out that they play off each other, so they needed to be released in a specific order. 

He even charted out which singles he would release first to radio stations.  

Talib, with a confused look on his face, told the producer, “Hold up. You gotta get signed first!”

The producer didn’t let that minor detail deter him.

In his mind, he was already moving to his final destination of being a successful musician. He was just showing Talib the roadmap he was taking to get there.

A year later in 2003, the producer, Kanye West, would release his Grammy award winning album The College Dropout.

Two years after that, he released Late Registration, following the exact plan he had told Talib that one day that one day backstage in 2002.




What Kanye was doing is exactly what elite Olympic Athletes do to compete at high levels.

Visualizing success.

They visualize a path to their goals, imagine themselves going through the motions, and hitting their targets. They play the process and outcome so many times in their head that when it’s time to perform, they’re confident because they’ve been there before. (At least in their heads)

And science says that this practice of visualization is a powerful tool when it comes to performance and crushing your goals.

In the late 70s, Soviet researchers conducted a study to measure the effects of mental training on performance.

“One study evaluating these intensive programs suggests their potential. Four matched groups of world-class Soviet athletes diligently trained for many hours each week. The training regimens were as follows:

Group I – 100% physical training

Group II – 75% physical training, 25% mental training

Group III – 50% physical training, 50% mental training

Group IV – 25% physical training, 75% mental training

When the four groups were compared shortly before the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, Group IV had shown significantly greater improvement than Group III, with Groups II and I following, in that order.”

In another study, subjects who visualized making basketball free throws (no physical practice) improved their free throws by 23%. The group that only practiced shooting free throws (no mental visualization) improved by 24%.

In other words, people who mentally visualized making free throws improved nearly as much as people who practiced actually shooting free throws.

Now, you don’t have to have aspirations for musical dominance, or becoming a world class athlete to tap into the power of visualization.

I’ll show you two ways to apply it to your life, one way to kickstart your personal style, and one that might just change your entire life.




One of the most common style problems guys come to me with is not knowing where to start. They’re not sure what they like, or what style they should try for themselves.

Here’s what I ask them:

“Is there someone famous whose style you like? Celebrity, musician, athlete, even a fictional character from a movie?”

What I love about this question is that once they name someone, (whether it’s Ryan Gosling, Ronaldo, or James Bond) you can immediately see the switch go off in their heads.

The end goal and path start to emerge.

They start imagining themselves dressing like these guys. From that point on, it’s much easier to start working on their personal style.




The reason most people have a difficult time creating change, whether it’s with improving their style, revitalizing their careers, or even traveling more, is because they’re too vague when it comes to setting goals.

They think “I want to dress cool”, without identify what looking cool is.

They hope to “travel more”, instead of deciding to go to Japan and planning for it.

Why is being specific so important went making a change?

Imagine you’re hungry. You decide that you want a burger. The moment you make the specific choice of getting a burger, your brain kicks into gear.

It starts listing places you can get a burger from. You start calculating how long each would take to order and eat.You chart out possible ways to get it.

Do I want a quick burger at McDonalds? Or should I trek to somewhere nicer that might take an hour out of my day?

Do I want to go for a walk? Should I take a cab? Should I get it delivered?

In other words, being specific when defining your goal will reveal possible routes to reach it.

ACTION STEP: Having a hard time figuring out a style for yourself?

Follow these 3 steps:

  1. Answer this question: When it comes to your style, who is someone whose style you admire? (Anyone. It can be a celebrity, musician, or athlete. Dead or alive. Even fictional e.g. James Bond. You can pick a few as well.)
  2. Do a Google Image search using “[Name of person] Style”. This is the best search term I’ve found to getting a ton of great style inspiration results.
  3. Save your favorite images into a folder for future inspiration and reference.


Ok, you got some style inspiration, now let’s take it a step further.

Last week, I told you my surprising answer to “What’s the point of dressing well?”

I talked about how amazing style is a small part of being an esssential man.

At the end of the post, I promised to show you an exercise that can be a gamechanger to living the best version of your life.

So today, I’m sharing with you a writing exercise called “The Perfect Day”

The premise is simple. What would your perfect day look like?

From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. Write out your perfect day.

Imagine you’re a screenwriter writing a scene in a movie. Except you’re the main character, and the scene is a perfect day in the movie of your life. 

Describe everything in vivid detail. The more details the better.

  • What time do you wake up?
  • What’s the first thing you do?
  • What are you going to eat for breakfast?
  • What does your view look like?
  • What clothes you put on that day?
  • Where are you going to work? What work do you do?

If you had the perfect career, the perfect partner, the perfect house, was in perfect health, what would that day look like?

What I love about this exercise over individual goal planning is that it reveals so much about what you truly want.

If you asked someone to set a fitness goal, they might write down “Lose 20 lbs”.

But if your “Perfect Day” involves playing football with your kids in the park, it ties your fitness goal to an actual benefit. You’re much more likely to take action when you play that picture of you playing with your kids in your head.


To get you inspired, I want to share with you the latest version of My Perfect Day.

Since I started writing it over a year ago, I’ve revised it about 4 times (about every 3 months).

I find that I can safely plan out the next 2-3 months, while it’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen 6 months to a year out.


My Perfect Day
By Peter Nguyen

I wake up at 8:34, no alarm.

My wife’s already left for work.

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I walk into the bathroom and notice a note my wife left me about our plans tonight. I weigh myself – 160lbs, 9% bodyfat. 

As I open my health app to log my weight, I glance at my notifications for overnight sales for my business.

240 sales of my new course, all while I was sleeping.


I head to the kitchen to grab a glass of sparkling water and walk to the living room.

I look outside our wall to wall windows at the view of Manhattan from our Brooklyn apartment. 


I get dressed into my gym clothes, head to toe Nike, and head over to the gym. It’s Friday, which means it’s deadlift day. After some warming up, I pull 385lbs for reps. I end the session with a light bike ride while listening to the latest Tim Ferriss Podcast.

Back home, I drink a quick protein shake before I jump in the shower. I decide I’m going to start my workday outside, so I get dressed.

Robert Geller striped shirt. Haider Ackerman pants. Dries Van Noten double breasted jacket. Common Project Sneakers.

I grab my Macbook and throw it in my Porter bag, then head out to the coffee shop.


I order an iced coffee and croissant then head to the window seats for some work / people watching.

I do a quick run through of The Essential Man – I recently hit the 50,000 subscriber mark. I got a ton of e-mails last night about how much people loved my latest post, I run through and quickly sort through them – say thank you to readers who I can reply to now, tag the e-mails that require a longer response with “TO REPLY” to reply at the end of the week. 

I’m relaxed, watching people go in and out of the coffee shop. I open up my Journey Journal app and write my daily entry.

After I finish my entry, I do a quick run through of Twitter and Facebook to see what I missed. Nothing important, so I head home.

I take my coffee out to the balcony and turn on Spotify to my chill jazzy hip-hop beats station.


I set up my Macbook outside and really start my work day. It’s Friday, and I’m doing some “House Cleaning”, sorting through my site to see if there’s anything that needs to be done. Not much, really, so I decide to take the day to get a jump start on next week’s writing.

I open up my Google Docs and check some articles in the queue. I look over the edits my Editor suggests.


I work through for a few hours until lunch. I walk over to my kitchen and open the fridge – my private chef has put together an awesome lunch for me to help me hit my macros: It’s a Vietnamese noodle salad with pork. That reminds me, I have to e-mail him to let me know what I’m craving for next week.

After lunch I jump back on my Macbook to finish the edits, then e-mail my editor to ask for one final look.

It’s 2pm now, I want a change of scenery and decide I want a 2pm coffee.


I head back over to the coffee shop with my Macbook again. I grab another iced coffee and seat. I’m doing a little research on flights – I’m looking to do a photo shoot/video tour of Japan: places to eat, shops, meeting brands, for The Essential Man. I check my travel points and see I have enough for a business class international seat!

My wife and I always end the workweek with a drink somewhere with some of her co-workers.


We made reservations at Raine’s Lawroom in the Flatiron, close to her work for 7:00pm. I got some time to kill, so I head back home and play some Call of Duty with Troy for a couple of hours before I have to get ready.

I grab a quick shower and change into some date night clothes: a black polo, suede leather jacket, Acne jeans and Guidi boots. I spray on that cologne that my wife likes then run down to my Uber.


I’m waiting for my wife and her co-workers outside Raine’s Lawroom. After about 15 minutes, they arrive and we head inside where there’s a table waiting for us. I start with a negroni (as always). We’re all catching up, having an amazing time.

When the bill comes they’re shocked when they realized I already took care of it! They offer to pay me back but I politely decline. It’s ok though because while we were out drinking, I made another 90 sales.


My wife and I take an Uber home, we’re starving, we pull up Seamless and order some food from our favorite diner. She gets a meatloaf sandwich, me, I go for a turkey club with fries.

Our doorman lets the delivery guy up.

We turn on this week’s episode of Real Housewives of New York that we missed, eat our food and pass out on the couch.



  • I’m not on a beach somewhere doing nothing  While a week in the Maldives with a drink in your hand the entire time sounds like a perfect day, it’s more effective to write out your perfect work day, not a day void of work or responsibility. As Seth Godin put it “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
  • I’ve added pictures This is purely optional. I’m a visual person, and I find that when I look over My Perfect Day document every Wednesday, images invigorate me a lot more than just plain text.
  • I like The Real Housewives of New York No shame here. It’s like watching a bunch of soccer moms get into a street fight after a fender bender. So hard to look away once you begin.


I want to help you write your own Perfect Day because I’ve seen how effective it is in reaching my own goals. To do that, I’ve created a “Perfect Day Template”. I’ve included a list of “perfect day” questions, as well as an outline to help you create your own perfect day manifesto in no time.

Enter your name and e-mail address below to get instant access to it.

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