“Setting targets for the future is pointless if you can’t fulfill your targets for today. The only way to achieve something great is to stop daydreaming about it over Starbucks and start taking action when it matters. Now.”
This is a belief that defines how I set my goals.
We have a habit of overestimating what we can achieve in a day, and underestimating what we can achieve in a year. It’s an unfortunate trait, and one that has scuppered many perfectly realisable ambitions.
How often have you found that your short term doing is no match for the long term planning?
Are your notepads full of projections for the life you’ll be living in six months? Is there a plan that fits around your schedule to get you there?
Notepads are a trademark accessory of the daydreamer who likes to look busy. It’s easier to scribble our intentions than to take the first step towards realising them. How many trees have been hacked down for you reiterate the same objectives over and over again? Writing them down does not bring them to fruition.
The next time you commit your masterplan to pen and paper, make sure the last thing you write is the first step you will be taking.
Better yet, make sure that first step is crossed off your list before you go to bed. Sleep is the great killer of plans that haven’t been put in to action.
Some people have their futures mapped to the finest detail. They decide one day that enough is enough, and promptly draw up manifestos of change that leave no part of their lives untouched.
This approach to achieving big is well-intentioned, but likely to fail. We simply don’t respond well to snap re-programming unless it’s triggered by truly life changing events. And I hope you’ll agree, a moody trip to Starbucks with journal in hand doesn’t quite fit that bill for most individuals.
I have to come back to the concept of overestimating what we can achieve in a day. There’s no doubt. We can achieve a lot in 24 hours, in the literal sense. However, most of the long-term goals we set hinge on our ability to make lifestyle changes.
You can’t alter your behavioural traits in 24 hours. I’ve never known a smoking addict to give up the drug on Day One, and to have forgotten about his commitment by Day Two – unless he’s failed the task!
The trouble with overestimating what can be achieved in a day is that it typically deflates our hunger to keep going. There’s no greater thievery of motivation than waking up to yesterday’s failure. It makes your goals seem further and further away.
In reality, they’re still perfectly attainable. It’s equally true, and even more important to remember, that we chronically underestimate what can be achieved with sustained effort over time.
We may fail in 24 hours, it’s quite likely. However, this is where your character needs to shine through. Sustained action is the big brother to your hopes and ambitions. Many of the world’s greatest inventors and innovators only succeeded on the back of a thousand failures.
I doubt they needed many notepads telling them what they needed to do, just lots of hours spent actually doing.
It’s better to set yourself a million baby steps than one goal that you’ll do everything in your power to put off for another day. The real secret to long term planning is a simple acknowledgement that the time for taking action is always now.
This is what separates the achievers from the believers, and those who do, from those who plan to.
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