The Long Game
One of the most valuable things I’ve adopted in the last few years has been a journaling habit. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. I don’t always do it, some days I don’t get around to it. Almost every day, though, I scribble something down in my (now digital) diary.
Along with a daily habit, I have a reminder set in my calendar for a quarterly review. It’s just a quick touch in to see how the last three months have been. One of the steps is to go back through my daily entries and open 10 random days and read them.
Why? It’s a reminder of the journey that I’ve traveled, and more importantly the progress I’ve made. From my experience, having that journey front-of-mind when planning the future is the best way to prime your thinking for measurable, and therefore sustainable, success. Let me explain.
Being forward-focused is an innate trait of human beings. It’s one of the primary reasons we’ve evolved to the top of the food chain. As the pressure to become a better, faster, stronger version of ourselves increases, we place more emphasis on big wins. I want to get there now.
Unicorns, billionaires, IPO’s, world records, millions of followers — they’re constant reminders of what success looks like. The media is full of overnight successes like Facebook. That causes a bias.
When a new year rolls in, too many people see it as an opportunity for the break-through success they’ve been waiting for. This is going to be my year. It’s also the primary reason most people never follow through on their new year’s resolutions and achieve what they want to.
Tackling a big, hairy, audacious goal is hard. Mountains always look intimidating when you’re standing at the foot of them. When things are broken down into sizeable chunks with intermediate finish lines, the inertia to start moving is far less. The long game is knowing that the small wins add up. Consistently putting one foot in front of the other is what moves the needle.
Journalling places an emphasis on the long game. By reading through your entries from 2 days, weeks, or months ago, you’re reminded of where you’ve come from. It shifts the focus away from “what can I achieve this year” towards “what can I do today that will pay off in 10 years' time”.
Most people overestimate what you can achieve in one year, and grossly underestimate what you can achieve in 5 or 10. The journey to success is made up of small increments of effort over a long period of time.
As the year winds down, and we ponder what the next loop around the sun holds, consider the long game when you’re planning your future. Do you know where you want to be in 5, 10 or 15 years from now? What steps can you take today, that will set that flywheel in motion?