If you were to look inside my notebook, you’d probably notice a couple of themes: lots of well-organized check boxes and really small handwriting. I’m not sure how it got to be that way, but this style has some advantages. For instance, one single notebook might last me six months or more, which satisfies both my inner minimalist and cheapskate. I don’t know about you, but I always like to hang on to my last two notebooks – no need to hoard, but a little historical reference is nice. Whenever I finish one, before I put it on the shelf, I’ll flip through it and have a look at what I’ve been up to. Well, I was retiring one this weekend and stumbled across a page that really struck me.
Back in December of 2015, I’d written down a number of goals for the upcoming year. After a quick look down the line, I have to admit that I was really pleased. It wasn’t because all of the goals had been achieved, but because it provided me with an important dose of perspective. Friends, if I could wish for you only one thing, it would most certainly be perspective. Here’s why:
1/ You’re going to keep moving the goalposts. We all do it. As soon as one goal is achieved, a new benchmark has been set, and suddenly we need more. Want to be able to do ten pull ups? Sounds like a good goal to me. The problem is, by the time you can do ten, you’ll already want to do twenty. Want to make $80k a year? By the time…you get my point. I don’t want to be the 1000th person to tell you to “focus on the journey”, so how about this, “stop moving the dang destination”.
2/ Great stuff takes time. Even if we learn to stick to our goals, it is really easy to forget where we started. Having perspective allows us to appreciate another great “p” word – progress. If you’re pursuing a truly big goal, please remember to regularly take stock in the progress you’re making. Reflecting on how far you’ve come will motivate you to push even further.
3/ Gratitude makes you happy. It really is that simple. Those with perspective are able to zoom out and see things for what they are, rather than for how they feel. It is easy to list every perceived slight or thing that went wrong. Instead, take stock of what you have. Look at all of the things that have gone right. If you’re waiting to be successful before you start being grateful, good luck with that. It works the other way around.
I want you to know that I offer all of this from a place of understanding. I’ve spent most of my life shrugging off some pretty solid accomplishments, just to start in on the next one. The endless pursuit of more can be insidious. And it isn’t just money, fame, and material things that can get us this way. It can just as easily be a faster time, a heavier lift, or bigger impact on the world. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not a high risk for complacency, so do yourself a favor. Go dig out an old notebook, thumb through it, and try to gain some perspective.