Today is a day of new beginnings or at least getting started. I am preparing to step forward into plans that I have been making for some time. The goals are big dreams that I have been hard at work building, in some cases, for years. The progress towards this moment has been incremental and small, ongoing and labor intensive. It’s not sexy but it’s the only way I know to get ahead. The practical steps are the keys to my success and my feeling of anticipation today is a lot like standing on a diving board.
I have filled the pool with opportunities and all I have to do is dive into the water to swim. My small practical steps have made this moment possible; Changing habits, conservative choices focused on long term goals, and planning. There is a lot of work that goes on before we ever get to the precipice. I have found the words of Walt Disney to be particularly applicable to this process, “Everyone needs deadlines.” I might not make my deadline but by virtue of having one I do make consistent progress toward it.
Deadlines keep me aware of the timeline of my growth. If I only say, “someday,” and not “Five years from now,” I’ve created paradox where I could accomplish that goal any day from now until my death and it will always remain “some day.” However, when I have a five year deadline I see all the things that go into that goal, the little steps, the new learning, the coaching, and experimenting. All of the necessary and unsexy failures that will go into the big changes to make them possible and all of the hours that I will need to devote and I realize that five years is not that much time.
Five years in the grand scheme of things is a very brief period of time. It is a lifetime to children and all they cram into the first five years of their lives is monumental. Consider an infant and then a reading, walking, talking, creative, and potty trained Kindergartener who has preferences, interests, and opinions. Someone who five years ago had only the raw materials for cognitive growth and development. That child had to make something of every experience, interaction, and engagement to become the person they are at five. That is much the same for us and our goals.
All we know is that we have a goal and we only have five years to accomplish it. Maybe it will take longer than five years to achieve. Maybe we will face unexpected challenges, delays, or obstacles but when we give ourselves a limited time period in which to work we give ourselves the thrust we need to move forward now.
We have to step forward because to delay would make us late for our deadline. If you’re late for your flight you miss it. But if you’re late for a personal deadline we learn something. Whether we move forward towards our goals or not the time is going to pass. To me it just feels better to look back and see progress.
I recently found a goal list my partner and I created outlining our plans for 2020. We had one goal, to get our house ready to sell. And then we brainstormed a dream house. We wrote a list of all the things we wanted in our future home and what it would look like, feel like, need to be our perfect home. And here I sit reading through the list in awe. All but three items on that full page list were included in our current home. That is something to celebrate and something to acknowledge – we made that possible.
We set a goal and gave ourselves a deadline and we missed it by a year – we wrote the list at the end of 2019 for 2020 and then COVID hit, an unforeseen and unprecedented challenge. We were grateful for our cozy home and to have a safe and clean place to live. But facing that challenge we recalibrated, realigned, reaffirmed our commitment to the goal of a new home. In 2021 – we moved.
We moved into a home that checks the majority of our boxes. We could not have predicted COVID all we could predict was that the time would pass whether we took the initiative or didn’t. Fortunately, we took the initiative and because of that we get to live our dream instead of just holding it. And I will confess looking around myself and seeing my dreams come to life is significantly more satisfying than holding them close and never diving in to see what might happen. You don’t need to finish everything at once but sometimes giving yourself a shorter amount of time to accomplish a goal gives you just the right push to get it done.
What dreams do have that you have given yourself a timeline to complete? Do you set one year, five year, or ten year goals? How do you stay accountable to accomplish them?