Have you ever heard Aesop’s fable about the Tortoise and the Hare? It goes something like this (1):
There once was a speedy hare who bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, Slow and Steady, the tortoise, challenged him to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch.
Hare ran down the road for a while and then and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”
Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, “There is plenty of time to relax.”
Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line.
The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare.
Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. Tortoise was over the line.
After that, Hare always reminded himself, “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”
As in several of Aesop’s fables, the moral of this story is ambiguous and has been interpreted differently throughout history (2). Since that’s case, I thought I’d make up my own.
The Hare Mindset
These days, most people try to live like the Hare. Not necessarily in the way that they’re bragging and boasting and challenging random turtles to sprint races (although some crazy nuts might), but rather that they want things to go FAST.
And when you think about the contemporary obsession with immediate results and instant gratification we’re being sold every day, this makes perfect sense. Everywhere we look there are promises of getting rich quick, lotteries that’ll make you an overnight millionaire, fad diets and training programs that’ll transform your appearance in weeks or days.
You can get fast food, one-hour glasses, thirty-minute photo processing, overnight mail, microwaved food, instant hot water, and emails and text messages delivered anywhere in the world on a seconds notice.
These things have made us expect instant results to the point that when we don’t get them, we get discouraged and immediately quit.
But the truth is lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. And that is why I suggest we change our approach.
The Tortoise Mindset
For the most part, the results we’re looking for will rarely come quickly. But they won’t take that long, either. In my experience, they tend to take just a little bit longer than we’re comfortable going for.
- Exercising for one hour three times a week for a month will show very little, if any, results.
- Reading one book in January won’t make much of an impact on your personal growth.
- Meditating 10 minutes a day for a couple of weeks won’t show much of an affect on your mind.
But what if you decided right now to drop the quick-fix mentality of the Hare and instead adopt the mindset of the Tortoise?
What if, instead of obsessing over (and very likely getting discouraged by) the short-term results, you focused on just taking the next tiny step in the right direction?
Jim Rohn used to say that “failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day” and that “success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.”
If you took these principles to heart you could have the following results within a year:
- By exercising for one hour three times a week, you would have 150+ hours of exercise under your belt. More than enough to have a huge impact on your health and appearance.
- By reading one book a month, you would have read 12 books. This means tons of new insights, ideas, and concepts to enrich your life.
- By meditating 10 minutes a day, you would have 60+ hours of meditation experience. This translates (among many other benefits) into improved focus, creativity, compassion, memory, less stress and anxiety.
It’s not your speed, but your consistency that makes all the difference:
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” — Confucius
How Slow & Steady Wins the Race
Ironically, it’s when you shift your focus away from the results you want that they’ll start showing up.
When you start to relentlessly take the next tiny step, the results will inevitably show up as a side effect of the person you’re becoming.
I believe it works something like this:
When you’re consistent, that creates momentum. That momentum creates progress. The progress creates self-confidence. The self-confidence starts shaping a new, more resourceful and empowering identity. And with this new identity comes the ability to create lasting change in your life.
So, here’s what I suggest. Take your goals and chop them up into small daily minimum quotas. Then, start obsessing about executing on them every single day.
If you want a step-by-step process for doing this, I recommend you check out The 2016 Goal-Setting Workbook. That’s what the tortoise would have done.
“The 2016 Goal-Setting Workbook kicks ass!” — The Tortoise
Joel Lindmark for the tortoise illustration. Very cute.