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How long will it take to reach your goal?

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

How long will it take to reach your goal?

Scott Miker

When I started using the systems and habits approach to improvement I noticed something.  I noticed that I was finally starting to make progress towards my goals.

But that progress was at such a slow pace it would have been easy to disregard it.  I was inching forward when in my mind my passion wanted me to be sprinting towards the reward at the end.

Since then I’ve learned over and over again that we tend to underestimate how much time and money it will take to reach major goals.  We assume our enthusiasm and passion will drive us quicker and we can realize our dreams as long as we do a few, quick steps.

But we have to learn to change this mindset or we will just flame out and quit soon after starting due to being disappointed by the lack of results. 

In The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, the author talks about creative pursuits and projects that involve a certain artistic approach.  He talks about resistance and says that there is a force (resistance) that pushes against the pursuit of our goals.  He says the professional understands this and works through it while this force continuously deters the amateur. 

On the topic of patience, Pressfield says, “Resistance outwits the amateur with the oldest trick in the book: it uses his own enthusiasm against him.  Resistance gets us to plunge into a project with an overambitious and unrealistic timetable for its completion.  It knows we can’t sustain that level of intensity.  We will hit the wall.  We will crash.”

When I think about the approach I took prior to finding the systems and habits approach to improvement, this encompasses what I did.  I would get very excited about doing something or achieving something but then assume I could get it done quicker than what was reasonable.  I couldn’t pace myself properly to keep going and going.

Pressfield says of the professional, “The professional, on the other hand, understands delayed gratification… The professional arms himself with patience, not only to give the stars time to align in his career, but to keep himself from flaming out in each individual work.  He knows that any job, whether it’s a novel or a kitchen remodel, takes twice as long as he thinks and costs twice as much.  He accepts that.  He recognizes it as reality.”

What goals are you setting with an incorrect timetable?  Are you overly ambitious and letting that ambition cloud the reality of how long it will take and how much it will cost?

Rarely have I found that a big goal can be achieved quickly.  In fact the bigger the goal, the more patience I have to have.

For me the key to remaining patient, is to focus solely on progress.  I don’t stress about the pace as much as I make sure I am moving towards the goal.  I can always work to increase the pace later.  But if I don’t focus first on just making progress I will fall into the resistance trap that Pressfield mentions.

That would leave me underestimating the timeline and cost and leave me vulnerable to losing before I even start.  Therefore we have to shift to a patient mindset for our goals and continue to move forward, regardless of the pace.