I like to see growth in my personal and professional life, to know that I am moving forward instead of moving backwards and giving my best effort toward the goals and pursuits that are important to me. Real growth and ingenuity take laborous practice and effort perfecting a craft and a skill before any true success happens. And at the same time, when setting goals, I need to have a vision for where I am heading which will instill the confidence to face the challenges that come and be persistent. It is this daily persistence that breaks through and moves you into something greater than mediocrity or the status quo.
But from there, how long should you persist before you start expecting something tangible or interesting to happen? When should you expect to see success? With my history of attempting and failing, success is relative. Even a failure can tell you what not to do, which is essentially a success because it is taking you closer to where you should focus your time, energy and efforts.
Rather than continuously repeating the process of setting short-term goals and frustratingly neglecting other responsibilities in order to make goals happen, I am hoping for more long-term strategies that allow more flexibility in the goals of today and focus more around daily process and habits. This long-term approach helps me be more creative and try things in the day to day instead of simply stressing about rigorous expectations that help me complete short-term projects that stifle my joy in creating and learning different crafts. It is essentially a daily schedule of practice with other time for experimentation that bring about the revelations, connections, and growth in my pursuits.
Essentially, the question I am asking is, what daily habits should I encourage on a regular basis that can build over time and create consistency to move into long-term goals and doing the most good over a longer period of time? What work can I maintain or how can I schedule opportunities for practice into my regular routine that are not ‘binge related’, that have me burnt out and frustrated in 2 weeks or even 2 months? Then, at the same time, and as a complement to the daily routine and habits, there should still be a degree of flexibility for side projects or crafts that I find interesting and are worth pursuing. These projects or crafts can be short-term focused, but they are unplanned. Certainly, these unplanned projects are limited to a degree based on free-time, and that is ok.
I’ve started to learn that creating a set of boundaries for myself offers the most freedom for the daily habits. Instilling practices that are long-term in nature instead of short-term not only bring me closer to long term goals but also help establish beneficial character qualities like diligence, thoroughness, punctuality, patience, compassion, orderliness, generosity, and other Christlike character qualities. This helps me with a desire to practice instead of prioritizing a quick fix and constantly being frustrated. How can I reinforce this idea of the long game, that I am in it for the long-haul and not consumed with the here and now? Here are a few things that help counteract the constant advertisements for me to focus on what I want right now instead of considering the long-term goals.
Less TV, Video Games, and Negative Things That Make Time Stand Still
This is pretty straightforward but most Americans watch too much tv or play too many video games. I’m convinced the real problem with these is they can suck you into a black hole where you do not perceive time and it can quickly get away from you. If you can justify this into your goals and your planning then it may be warranted. But, most likely it is a diversion. Set limits for yourself in what is not directly supporting your priorities. If you are like me and don’t want the distraction, you can cut off cable and get a Roku and have access to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon programming. In general, I prefer intentional tv watching rather than letting tv rearrange my schedule.
Stay at a Job or Pursue a Craft For A Minimum of 2 To 3 Years
There is certainly cause for leaving a job when you have reached the end of growing. Recently, Jeff Goins made a good point on a podcast related to the topic, suggesting in order to learn a skill, you really need to stay somewhere from 2 to 3 years to see results of your efforts. If you are moving jobs every year then you probably are not being responsible and staying long enough to develop a level of success. I had considered this in a career move but not in terms developing the skill of writing consistently or growing an audience with a blog. But, in reality, this should be the goal of all pursuits. Any attempt at learning something or trying your hand at a new thing, there is certainly a window of exposure and deciding whether something seems interesting. But if you consider learning the craft or skill, why not stick with it?
One area that I can apply this to was when I was a kid taking piano lessons. I did not want to take lessons at the time but my mom insisted. She also made sure each of us had 2 years of lessons. Years later she explained that 2 years of piano would provide the base for learning any instrument. Into my teenage years and into college, music proved to have a valuable place in my life which also provided a lot of opportunities which I would not have otherwise had.
Setting 10 Yr Goals
I have pulled together my thinking about setting goals from various people and written a few articles on the topic challenging my own thoughts about Failure vs Success and Deliberate Process vs Goals. You can read some of the original inspirations about how I came to this method of prioritizing my goals and one article that stands out to me is Why Successful People Take 10 Years to Succeed Overnight. It is evident that any degree of success is not in setting small goals for myself but daily habits. This article points out the work that is required that no one sees once you become successful. It reminds me that any goals take intensive effort and time. I have started to think more along the lines of ‘who do I want to be’ rather than what is a goal that I can set. Donald Miller helped me crystalize the concept when he said, you can only have 3 to 4 roles at once. I try to think about the roles I want to have and how I hope that those might look 10 years, then I work backwards. This has helped me prioritize opportunities and re-evaluate my successes on a quarterly basis with much less stress and frustration. It allows me to step back from the daily process every 3 months and say, ok, how did I do in creating this pattern and habit that I set out to create 3 months ago? Does it still make sense for me to continue focusing in this direction or come up with a different daily process for the next season? This thinking is a much more fluid process and one that I can rest easy with. I am able to see a level of growth when I put my head down and do work based on my daily or weekly habits and develop rhythms. It is freeing.
Invest in Your Future With Your Money – 401k/Kids College/Pay Off Your House
When you can reinforce the thinking of long-term growth, it always helps. Put your money up front from every pay check into an investment for your future so that it does not get away from your goals and planning. Mat 6:21 says ‘Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’ Simply put, where you put your money is, that’s where your heart is. Giving to charitable causes helps remind me that life is not about me. In the same way, putting my money in the future helps me first and foremost think long term.
One example of long term thinking with money is in line with my goal to get into real estate investing. I have a long way to go from being ready to invest with my own money. I know I could get a loan but paying a mortgage company or bank for something is not ownership, it is a loan and it is truly the bank’s property until you have paid them off. I know it is a long way away but slowly prioritizing my money to support this idea by paying down the loan quicker is a good investment in my future.
I am reminded of the tortoise and the hare in a race. The hare is over-confident, acts quick and carelessly and stops when he feels like it. The tortoise steadily plods along, does not stop, and finishes the race. There is more success in steady continuation than there is in getting carried away by the whims of society and culture. Allow yourself room for error while also giving an opportunity for compound growth by continually and deliberately practicing and let that take its own effect, wherever it may lead. I love the mindset of setting 2 to 3 year goals and where do I want to be in 10 years. Then I break down priorities and mark my time practicing as the true value. If that is the case for me personally, 1 of the roles I would like to have in my 10 year goal is to become a Dallas-based digital marketing expert and consultant and I would say I am in year 1 or 2 of that goal even though it took maybe 5 years to identify that as a dream. The second goal is to be a real estate investor but in order to become one I am setting the stage to be able to start possibly 5 to 10 years from now. Here’s to the daily plodding.