You know the old fable of the Tortoise and the Hare:
Once upon a time a tortoise and a hare had an argument about who was faster.They decided to settle the argument with a race. They agreed on a route and started off the race.The hare shot ahead and ran briskly for some time. Then, seeing he was far ahead of the tortoise, he thought he’d sit down and rest for a while before continuing the race. He sat down under a tree and soon fell fast asleep.The tortoise, plodding along, soon overtook him, passed him, crossed the finish line, and won the race.The hare woke up and realized he’d lost.Moral: slow and steady wins the race
Which one are you? The tortoise or the hare?
Most people would agree that being the tortoise in this story is preferable to being the hare, but they don’t live their lives like it. Most people would agree that “slow and steady wins the race”, but they themselves are not “slow and steady.”
What is slow and steady, really?
- Slow IS being patient with yourself. Slow is NOT moving lazily along.
- Steady IS being consistent in action. Steady is NOT unchanging in action. If something isn’t working, fix it. But keep going.
The truth about SLOW is, most people aren’t patient enough with themselves. Most people don’t follow through with big goals and lofty plans.
Everyone sets goals. New Years Resolutions are some of the most common new, big goals. But most of those never get achieved. Why not? People just don’t have enough patience with themselves. They want a “magic bullet, secret formula, or quick fix.” They want to:
- Make $200,000 a year spending two hours a day on the Internet
- Lose 30 pounds in a week
- Rub 20 years off their face with a cream
- Fix their love life with a pill
- Find lasting success with any other scheme that is too good to be true
- ( — Darren Hardy, The Compound Effect — )
Take a look at your goals again. Remember, most of them are probably BIG goals. And the thing about BIG goals is: They will probably take double the time you wish they would, but happen twice as fast as you expect they will with consistency. In other words:
- BIG goals are achieved slowly.
- But the realization of BIG goals happens suddenly after long-term, persistent effort.
(Ever seen an “overnight success” on TV? Yeah, he’s probably been working on his business for the past 20 years and people are only now starting to “discover” him.)
The truth about STEADY is, most people (in their impatience with themselves) just can’t accept daily, seemingly minuscule advancement. Most people want instant results in the here and now. Most people want results yesterday. Most people are driven more by urgency than importance.
- Urgency says, “This is a big deal! I’m totally freaking out! We gotta DO this man, we just gotta! If it’s not on my desk by 5pm the building is going to spontaneously combust!”
- Importance says, “This is a big deal! You need to see to the completion of this task, but the deadline is in 30 days. If your presentation convinces the other company to do business with us, it will give us the largest contract we’ve ever had! This is $10 million of importance.“
Or more simply:
- Urgency is all about TIME.Urgency seeks instant action. It pressures us with endless demands in every hour, in every day.
- Importance is all about VALUE. Importance seeks prioritization. First things first, second things second.
One of the best quotes I’ve heard recently on this subject is:
You have to be able to keep the main thing the main thing. Other things are important, but always focus on that main thing. Even if some things don’t get done, as long as progress is being made toward the main thing, encourage your team that they are moving in the right direction.
Win the Race
So how can you apply these principles to your own life and goals?
- Slow down. Don’t expect instant results where long-term life-change is required.
- Be patient with yourself. We all only have finite resources and time in a day. If you can’t get it all done today, that’s OK, there’s always tomorrow.
- Do less. Don’t freak out and try to do it all. Prioritize the important things. Let someone else freak out over the urgent things.
- Enjoy steady, minuscule accomplishments. Day by day, step by step, brick by brick. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- Don’t quit. And don’t be discouraged. As long as you’re moving toward the main thing, it’s getting closer, and your future is getting brighter.
- Don’t look beside you. Comparing yourself to others is a sure-fire way to get discouraged with where you’re at. Remember, your race is YOUR RACE, not theirs. Keep your feet on the path, keep them moving, and keep your eyes on that prize.