How much longer is this going to take?
This question may sound familiar to anyone who has pursued a goal over a long period. It is common to fantasize about “arriving” when you are still so far away from your destination. With much distance yet to cover, our thoughts and actions can either be helpful travel companions or annoying passengers.
Learning how to channel your thoughts during a long journey or stretch-goal can be a bit tricky. On the one hand, visualizing your future success can be a powerful motivator. But on the other hand, too much thinking can also deplete willpower.
Striking a mutual balance between positive visualization and introspection is the key. I like to think of it as a joint balancing act of three actions: wanting, waiting, and working. And with the right amount of each, these three pillars can be powerful tools for goals of any size.
I refer to this balancing act as the Patient Pursuit — one’s ability to endure challenges while pursuing a distant goal without losing interest or succumbing to distraction.
Here’s a closer look at the three pillars in action:
The part of the equation that may come most naturally. It is the desire that powers our thoughts and inspires our creative side with possibilities and dreams for what could be.
Tip: Do not limit your ideas with too much thinking or grown-up logic. See the world through a beginner’s mind. Let your “wanting” wander freely.
Pitfall: Do not allow “wanting” to become an obsession. Obsession can lead to impatience, and impatience will lead to poor decisions.
This should be the easy part in the sense that you can not force life to happen any faster than it does. However, for most, waiting might be the most challenging pillar of the three. Waiting is our ability to remain patient, allowing time to catch up with our dreams.
Tip: Time works on its own; that part takes care of itself. Empty bouts of waiting can be filled with awareness, appreciation, and gratitude for all the little things you observe along your path.
Pitfall: A mirage is an optical illusion that distorts one’s perception — just like complacency and compromise. Do not allow the long wait to fool your mind; things off in the distance will eventually come into focus. Keep moving forward, and you shall see.
This might be the most misunderstood pillar of the three. The concept of work tends to be interpreted literally as in “go to work” or “put in work at the gym.” This is true, but work is also any action, large or small, that brings you closer to your goal. Work can also be a decision not to do something you know will be harmful to your goal.
Tip: Create plans ahead of time for what you intend to do each day; post-it notes, dry-erase boards, your phone–whatever works for you. Broaden your scope of work and mark off your successes as you go.
Pitfall: Establish boundaries for yourself, so work does not become all-consuming. What does a “rest day” mean to you? How many times a month will you reward yourself with a milestone meal? Which hours in the day are for you and nothing else?
Patient Pursuit is comprised of three pillars: wanting, waiting, and working. Each pillar is a counterbalance to the other, and no single pillar should carry more emphasis over another. Checking in with yourself throughout the day to see which pillars have been underserved or overused helps keep the balance in check.
Tired of working? Dream of what you want.
Want quicker results? Relax and wait.
Losing interest? Refocus and work.