Why I created BetterSelf
I had never considered creating a mobile application before this experience. I studied software engineering in undergrad, but that was 15 years ago. I have spent my career in software, but in management roles for complex, B2B software. I never thought about a mobile application startup.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about my goals, though. A few years ago, I went through Ryan Allis’ 3,000 slides, which finally convinced me to write down my goals. Writing my goals down was life-changing. Each year, I felt proud of the progress I made. I started an annual revisit of Ryan’s slides as I refreshed my goals each year. Over time, I made tweaks to the structure as I learned what worked best.
Last year, my wife and I were reflecting, when she stated she was proud of me for reaching so many of my goals. Her praise prompted me to ask about writing down her goals, but she refused. My wife is smart, hardworking, and successful, so her statement confused me a bit. Why wouldn’t she try writing down her goals? Of course, my wife is not an outlier. There are millions of articles about the importance of goal setting, and yet most people don’t do it.
My wife was hesitant to write down her goals because she didn’t want the pressure of a timeline. Her life is hectic enough, and she didn’t see the need to add more pressure. I struggled with this concept at first because deadlines are helpful in the office. I reflected further and started to realize works tasks and goals are not the same. Your boss has already committed to deadlines to meet, but there isn’t a deadline to be a better person. It turns out that others agree with my wife that deadlines can hinder your personal growth.
My wife’s other reason to avoid goals was more relatable to me: she didn’t know where to start. I struggled with this part myself. Ryan Allis’ slides helped me to start generating ideas, but I know better than to tell someone to read 3,000 slides. I remember reading about SMART goals, which are a whole new concept to learn. SMART goals make sense, but they are too timeline focused and daunting for a new goal setter.
I realized the ideal app would have SMART goals to choose from and also avoid deadlines. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that met those criteria on the app store. There were dozens of apps that allow you to start from scratch and check-in for each task. They also had gorgeous charts that would show you exactly how bad you suck at your goals. These were not the low-pressure structure I wanted.
At that point, I was able to explain exactly what the ideal app needed to achieve, even though it didn’t exist. I had the vision and understood how the differentiation would help it fill a gap in the space. How could I not pursue?
As it turns out, this was only the beginning of the journey. Building an app makes you realize all the details you haven’t thought about it yet. I’ll save those adventures for another post.