5 Signs You’re MUCH Closer to Your Goals, Dreams, and Vision than You Think
Do you ever feel like you’re working hard but getting nowhere?
Have you had days where you seem to have been productive, but when you look back at what you’ve actually produced, you’re unsatisfied with it?
I feel like that every day. And I’ve felt like that for the past three to four years since I started writing. There have been milestones — the books, the talks, the breakthroughs — but I always feel like I’m catching up. I’m chasing ghosts.
In a slow but sure process, I’ve come to learn that this feeling is par for the course. If you’re ambitious, you’re prone to feeling like you’re not close enough. This feels worse when you’re in the ‘aspiring’ phase and haven’t gotten real traction yet.
First, we’ll talk about the fact that your goals themselves don’t matter. Then, I’ll contradict myself and tell you why you’re much closer to your goals than you think, which means keep pushing.
Goals are for Losers
In the book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by multiple NYT best selling author, famous cartoonist and entrepreneur Scott Adams, one of the opening chapters says goals are for losers.
Goals, by design, make you feel less than. If you haven’t achieved the goal you think will validate you, then you won’t feel validated throughout the entire process of reaching the goal. Then, once you do reach the goal, you’ll celebrate briefly, then realize you no longer have a sense of purpose, so you’ll set another goal and start the cycle all over again.
So what should you do instead of setting goals? Adams says you need systems. Losing 20 pounds is a goal. Working out three times per week is a system.
Systems make you feel like you’re winning each time you use them. If you have a system with a routine, each time you complete your routine you get to check the box in the win column, giving you a lot more wins than brief periods of happiness when you reach one long-term goal.
The author notes how system versus goals can seem like semantics, but he says the distinction is important enough to choose the former over the latter.
Systems → Long-Term Vision
I have a few long-term and lofty goals, but they’re vague and set far far off into the distance. I want to write 100 books, give talks, build multiple companies, all sorts of pie in the sky dreams.
I’ll notice the milestones as I cross them, but I’m no longer focused on them. My systems are sets of routines and habits that will cause the accomplishments I want. I get the win for following through with the system constantly with the goals as the cherries on top.
Some systems I use are:
Daily writing — I want to master the craft. If I write daily, stretch myself, and put effort into distilling my thoughts better each day, mastery is inevitable.
Speaking training — I participate in a ToastMasters club weekly to increase my speaking skills.
Education — At any point in time I’m taking a course, reading a book, or attending a live seminar on a subject to improve my career, business, and/or life.
Journaling — I write down ten new ideas per day to build my idea muscle.
Exercise — I go to the gym three times per week.
I get great results from my systems without having to consciously think so much about the results themselves.
Think of your long-term goals, but put them way into the back of your mind, then build systems to move your life in the right direction.
Even though systems move you closer to your goals, it’s still good to have some signs your systems are working and to feel like you’re making progress.
The following are some signs you’re moving in the right direction and just need to keep going.
You’ve Been Working Diligently for 6 Months
It’s funny. Everyone always talks about how writing and blogging are so competitive, especially on places like Medium.
The world of online writing isn’t competitive at all.
Why? Because I can look at my feed and count the number of writers that are still here from when I started… on two hands.
In most creative and entrepreneurial fields, people barely make it six weeks, let alone six months.
If you’ve made it six months, you’re already in the top five percent of the field. If you can make it for five years, you’ll be in the top one percent.
People mistakenly believe the most difficult part of the journey is the total length of time. Actually, the most difficult part is fighting through the dip — the part where your lack of progress tests your character. Once you make it past that part, success is only a matter of time.
If you’ve made it past six months. Settle down, put your head down, and keep working. If you haven’t made it to six months, don’t complain, get to that point, and follow the advice in the aforementioned sentence.
You Are (Actively) Learning Every Day
I run two blogs, one of which provides advice to aspiring writers. On my blog, I include step by step guides on writing books, building good habits, finding guest posting opportunities, building your list, even writing on Medium.
Nine times out of ten, if one of my readers reaches out to me for writing advice, I’ve already answered it on my blog, so I just send them a link.
Just like most people quit too early, most people don’t follow directions.
Want to unlock a superpower? Next time you read a how-to blog post with specific details, do all of the steps without judgement and don’t read another post until you’re finished.
If you’ve already been following instructions, finishing online courses, applying advice you’ve read from books, and/or doing exactly what a mentor or someone you look up to tells you, you are going to do very well in life.
These are simple things — persistence, executing, listening — but simple things are sometimes the hardest to do because they put you through the test. Some people don’t want to find out they did everything right and still failed.
That does happen sometimes, but often, if you learn and apply enough times, you can pretty much get anything you want.
Long attention spans are the most valuable form of currency in 2018 and beyond.
It’s hard to stay focused these days.
You have social media, blogs with cool information, books, podcasts, Netflix, video games, and a long list of unproductive time sucks.
Hell, most people can’t even stay focused on their actual jobs when our current culture makes you believe you need to answer every email right away.
To make things even more cumbersome, the skills that are being rewarded most are in direct contradiction with the current environment.
Technology kills low-skilled jobs. This should be something to celebrate, right? There are new sectors opening up, which means there’s more money and opportunity available. The sad truth? These jobs are too demanding.
People can’t just switch from low-skilled to high-skilled, meaning that those who fail to do the deep work required to develop the nuanced skills needed to thrive in the marketplace are going to be left behind — and they are being left behind.
Philosophical bent aside, if you’re carving out time to do work that matters to you, makes you feel flow, and helps you build the career capital you need to have more money and freedom, good.
Lengthen your span even more. I can work interrupted for 2–4 hours before I’m spent. I’m continuing to push myself, but after I’ve reached my cap, I stop, because there are diminishing returns. After your deep work period, you can do the type of administrative things you really don’t have to *think* about like answering emails.
If you find it difficult to focus, I can say without judgment of your character that failing to develop focus will become a problem for you long-term if you don’t work to improve it.
Here’s your sign.
You’re working smart
You’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, right?
80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of the work. Lately, I’ve realized I’ve been getting more benefit by focusing on what I should avoid.
I only have so much time in the day, so I’m focused on weeding out the 80 percent of my schedule that doesn’t contribute much — answering emails, reading blog posts (even useful ones), messing around with the design on my blog, over-editing (no more than three passes on blog posts) — and I focus on the core that matters like hitting the publish button and creating stuff people want.
Think about what you’re working on.
How much time is being spent on your weaknesses? How much is being spent on administrative stuff? What are you giving time to that doesn’t deserve it?
We have this tendency to focus on the bad — the problem child, the problem employee, the problem customer — instead of making 10X improvements on what’s already working.
Reverse the trend.
You keep your imagination active
You’re the creator of your life. You have the power to shape reality into the mold you want it to fit in.
As I’ve hit a few milestones, I’ve realized how much more is possible, because I’ve already done things that felt lofty when I started.
Most barriers are almost completely mental. Each time you stretch yourself in the present, you stretch what’s possible in the future.
I like feeling a little nauseous about what I’m attempting next. If I don’t feel a little bit foolish, I know I’m holding back.
My overall vision for my life feels impossible…now.
I’m sure it won’t in the future.
I’ve always been curious. Now, I try to put my curiosity on steroids.
What if you took what’s possible for you and multiplied it by ten?
What if you completely stopped believing in the idea of concrete reality at all?
I used to scoff at the sort of metaphysical “woo woo” view of life, but it makes sense to me now. You can manifest what you want — through vision and deeds of course — and your imagination is quite a large contributor to making genuine accomplishments in the real world.
I’m trying to break my brain, every day.
Do you want to escape the Matrix with me? Let’s do it.