4 min read
Quote I’ve Been Pondering This Week: “People overestimate what they can get done in a year and underestimate what they can get done in five years.”
There’s an enormous amount of truth to this statement, the most profound of which may be that it lays bare the reason so many people get bogged down in their personal or professional journey.
Here’s a Leland Conway original quote: “The key to long-term success is measurable accomplishment.” That means that in order to stay motivated, most people, nearly all people actually, have to see at least some substantial progress toward their ultimate goals. When that progress is nonexistent or too small to measure, discouragement sets in and the process of giving up begins. Even the most stubborn and strong-willed of us cannot withstand the overwhelming gravitational pull of stagnation.
The problem begins with realism. I’ve always believed that with a combination of hard work, will power, a little luck and willingness to take risks, practically anything can be accomplished by practically anyone. But the key to this equation is to lay the foundation of your goals in realism rather than outlandish dreams.
When we decide that we want something so bad that we’re willing to take a risk and make the effort to obtain it, we often bite off more than we can chew at the outset, while simultaneously failing to see how far we can go toward accomplishing our goal over a longer period of time than we initially set for ourselves if we can be realistic about things and can see measurable accomplishment along the way.
The truth is, only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because resolutions tend to either be based on grandiose, unrealistic ideals or something that is too difficult to measure off in smaller chunks. Weight loss is a perfect example. When I go to the gym in early December it’s a ghost town. When I go on January 3rd, it will be a mad house. Same next year. Rinse, repeat. Losing weight is hard, and it requires much more than just a visit or two to the treadmill hell at the gym. It requires a total lifestyle change. Many people underestimate how long it took them to gain the weight and overestimate their ability to quickly remove it. This principle applies for career growth, and other popular life goals people set for themselves.
Look at it this way. Our goals should line up with who we are and what we prioritize. Let’s look at our goal of weight loss from this perspective. Approaching it as a lifestyle change rather than just a number on a scale gives you more metrics to measure than just your weight. I lost a half pound this week, but how do I feel? Am I eating healthy? Do my meals make me feel satisfied and healthy? In other words, your goal should be to change yourself, not just your weight. The weight will come off automatically. Instead of looking in the mirror and saying “I weigh xxx pounds,” you look in the mirror and say “I am a healthy person.” This approach leads to measurable accomplishment rather than just waiting around for pounds to fall off after suffering through a spin class. Again, weight loss is just one example. The same principle applies to wealth accumulation, career changes or career growth and working on our relationships with others.
So, let’s change the paradigm.
Sit down and assess what your priorities are for the next five years. If there’s a big, grand change or accomplishment on your radar, break it into smaller achievable chunks. Drive toward the accomplishment of those smaller goals, while constantly assessing your progress. This helps you take risks more often while being able to correct your path before you get too far off track.
Here are four ways to prioritize and achieve your goals:
Prioritize God. I am a Christian, and for me, all goals should run through his will. This is the way I view the world and it’s non-negotiable. Prayer time is vital to clearing the mind, keeping us honest, and making sure that our goals are not based purely on self interests. The things we accomplish in our lives that don’t lift others up will mean absolutely zero after your gone.
Prioritize change. This is one reason I stopped doing New Year’s resolutions. I came to the conclusion that, if you see something in your life, goals, or plans that needs to be changed, why wait? Change it now. Instead of specific resolutions at the end of a year, I tend to assess or reassess my standing life’s goals. “Where do I want to be in one year? Three years? Five years?” If I can see that I’ve made measurable strides toward those short, medium and long term goals, I’m satisfied. If I’m not making those strides, I re-evaluate. “Is this really that important to me right now?” “Are there other areas of exploration and accomplishment that would be more valuable to me?”
Prioritize people. Go through all of your personal and professional relationships. Are the people in your life helping you or harming you? Do they edify you? Do they challenge you? Do they hold you accountable? Do they encourage you? If the answer is no, drop them. If the answer is yes, seek ways that you can reciprocate and strengthen those relationships. Trust me, this may be the best investment you make toward overall lifetime achievement. As mom always said, “we are who we hang with.”
Finally, prioritize your time. This statement is a cliche for a reason. Time is like money. Successful people control it, it doesn’t control them. When working toward a large goal, constantly be vigilant of your time. Assess all of your commitments. Do they help or hinder your progress? That doesn’t mean you don’t do things that have nothing to do with your goals. In fact, taking time away from your normal pursuits allows you to clear your mind, see the problems you face from a different perspective and generally refreshes your ambition when you get back to the task at hand. But you want to be sure that whatever you do fits into this paradigm of helping, not hindering towards your goals.
Prioritize this way and I’m confident you won’t overestimate what you can do in a year and you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come in five!