The Power of Consistency and Foresight
Goals – we’ve all got them. But seldom do we talk about our approach to goals. When a great idea pops into our head we may be so eager to start planning that we neglect to understand the two greatest factors in determining a goal’s success – consistency and foresight. It is easy to let the rush of a new project provide us with motivation to get started but how often do goals begin to lose their appeal after shortcomings or minimal results. In our ever adapting, instant-gratification fueled society is it no surprise that goals begin to lose their shine if there isn’t a steep incline towards success. However, for most people, quick and easy achievement isn’t the most realistic approach to goals. Success built in a short timeline is typically dependent on external opportunities and usually isn’t a reflection of the amount of effort someone is putting into a project. There may even be others working harder to build a similar career but seeing less success.
In western culture we tend to maintain this idea that success needs to be achieved as quickly as possible and the rate of success is solely determined by hard work alone. This concept implies that slow results are a direct result of your lack of effort or incapacity to perform a task effectively.
Yet, the assumption that if you pour yourself into a project with no strategy will guarantee success actually sets you up for failure. Why? Because when this expectation is challenged by unlucky moments or obstacles instead of being able to gauge this setback as a small component of your greater plan, you may end up viewing any obstacle as terminal. People may abandon a project that has the potential to blossom into great success in the future because they are unsatisfied with the results in front of them. They may doubt their own abilities in achieving goals because their project is “unsuccessful” when self-assessing the state of their goals. However, some goals require a much longer timeline, a much larger plan, but without being able to properly assess your goal you may fall into the trap of banking on future luck to dictate the course of your projects instead of taking action into your own hands.
At the beginning of the goal-building process there is typically a large degree of uncertainty revolving around a new project. Sometimes this uncertainty can manifest into excitement, but other times uncertainty can be absolutely paralyzing. We may question how we can get from point A to point B, but one of the largest factors in a goal’s success isn’t the external factors, it is ourselves. We determine how long we will commit to a goal, we determine the degree of importance this goal has in our life, and we determine if and when we want to quit. Although there are plenty of uncertain logistical factors that can weigh heavy on our brains, it is important to have a greater awareness that our mindset and ability to push through obstacles is more important in goal-setting than resources, circumstances, or setbacks.
The first major pillar in goal-setting that can help us to develop a mindset for success is understanding the importance of consistency. Consistency in goal-setting means that even when there are days when your goal appears lack-luster you take a small step towards completing a task. Small steps everyday can sometimes be more powerful than taking large strides on an irregular basis. Even if you can’t take a small step every day, working towards a goal on a weekly basis is far better than only focusing on a project when you feel inspired or confident. Unfortunately, inspiration can’t typically be forced, although we can place ourselves in situations that help inspire us. That being said, relying on the ever-fleeting nature of inspiration will lead to very inconsistent progress when it comes to goals. Instead, taking the initiative and relying on self-discipline will yield far better results.
Consistency helps you to keep your goal at the forefront of your mind because you are focused on completing tasks on a regular basis. This is important because when an opportunity arises that can help you to reach your goals you may more easily recognize how this opportunity can be utilized. Additionally, if you have been working on your goal for some length of time you have likely developed new skills that you can bring to an opportunity that you wouldn’t have acquired otherwise.
For example, if Jane wants to open a bar and she spent the last year consistently learning about the bar business and there is an open lot for an affordable price three miles away from her new apartment, she will view the lot as a potential spot for her dream pub. However, if Jeff has considered opening a bar in the past but hasn’t made any investment into this goal, Jeff will likely think nothing of the lot. Jane will be able to utilize the resources around her to support her goal because she will naturally be thinking of ways to begin her business. As for Jeff, he may receive the same opportunities or see the same resources as Jane but probably will not act in the same fashion because this goal isn’t a primary focus for him. Consistency is a powerful tool to keep us in a goal-oriented mindset, even when we are not directly working on our goals.
In addition, Jane through her research of the bar business knows how to negotiate with investors, how much building maintenance will cost, what popular drinks to offer on the menu, and how to advertise on local websites in her area. Each area of expertise in running a bar from customer service to finances and every in-between is now part of Jane’s overall skill set. After achieving a certain degree of knowledge in each of these categories Jane can utilize these skills in other goal-setting ventures, even if the skills don’t directly lineup with a new goal. For example, If Jane decides she wants to sell custom t-shirts online as a side-hustle, although Jane did not learn how to sell clothing through her bar business, she does know how to make a website, advertise, have sound financial records, and can use her bar mailing list to cross-advertise at the pub. In addition, Jane has developed a goal-oriented, self-motivated mindset over the last year so when it comes to starting a new goal she doesn’t feel as uncertain or paralyzed in taking on a new business venture. In the success she’s built through her pub she also gains a greater confidence in her ability in completing goals which will help motivate her in starting new projects as well.
Having consistency is not always easy, especially when there is seemingly minimal progress being made in a project. However, it is important to recognize that even less progress would be made if you choose to work on your goal only some of the time. Consistency doesn’t have to painful or laborious; it just needs to be a constant. A common misconception when it comes to “hustling” is the notion that goals can only be achieved through intense effort which ties back into the notion of the greater the effort the greater the result. However, when we operate from a place of working past our limit, it is easy to get burnt out and abandon consistent action because it can seem overwhelming. Instead, consistency can be best approached from a place of taking small steps.
If Jane everyday reads up a chapter on how to start a bar business, attends networking events on a regular basis, and saves a certain percentage of her weekly paycheck to invest into the bar, these seemingly small steps will be far more significant in long-term progress than Jeff who painstakingly tries to organize a business plan in a week and then gives up after the long grueling hours slaved at a computer begin to take a toll on his sleep. Jane is far more likely to continue researching more about the bar industry because she is working in manageable increments, whereas Jeff will likely view research as a chore because he has made the activity difficult for himself. Over the course of a year Jane has become very well versed in the industry, although reading only takes thirty minutes out of her daily schedule, whereas Jeff not only knows less about the industry but feels less inspired in working towards the bar goal because it is an intimidating venture.
Breaking up your goal into short-term daily tasks can make your goal more manageable while still continuing to make significant progress. There may be moments where you suddenly feel inspired and invest a great amount of time some days into a project. However, it is important that in the moments where you feel unmotivated and like your goal is going nowhere that you continue to take a step, no matter how small, to push forward. Through consistency, inspiration will resurface, incremental progress will continue to push your goal forward, and you can effectively work towards your future in an easy and effective way.
The second pillar of goal-setting that is critical to mindset development is the concept of foresight. Foresight may refer to anticipating future obstacles or understanding potential roadblocks in forming a project. However, the primary importance in having foresight in general is having an understanding that goal-setting is a process. When starting a new project we often are focused on the result – the success of our goal. We tend to view new goals in terms of how quickly can we achieve success. We want to feel the completeness of a project instead of fully understanding the longevity of the task ahead.
Instead of focusing on the end goal, having a process-focused mindset allows you to shift your viewpoint to planning instead of the result. Sometimes when our goals are larger than life, focusing on the result can feel daunting as we start to feel anxiety around the pressure of achievement. But when we focus on the process and understand that big goals will take longer amounts of time we can manage tasks more easily as the stress of wanting immediate results is removed. Having the foresight to understand a practical and reasonable timeframe for a goal will firstly help with long-term planning. However, having an understanding of the duration of a project can also help you to stick to your goals because you are expecting to see results in a matter of years instead of a matter of weeks.
For example, if Jane’s bar does not bring in consistent customers for the first couple months she may look at this situation from two very different perspectives. If Jane has a broader understanding that growing a bar will take a few years she will likely see this obstacle as a small roadblock in her greater plan. She will not expect to have a booming business within the first six months, so when the results are consistent with her expectation she doesn’t feel discouraged because she had the foresight to predict this rate of growth. However, if Jane expects to increase her customer growth by 100% in the first three months in a business, and the results to not align with the expectation, Jane will likely become discouraged and moving her goal further may be challenging as she deals with this mental roadblock. Foresight means having realistic expectations and understanding the process it takes to build any goal. Instead of relying on luck or chance, having an action plan that accounts for obstacles and timelines helps us to work towards our goals because we can anticipate surprises before they arise. Instead of interpreting obstacles as failures we can see obstacles as part of the process in working towards our goals.
This is not to say that other approaches to goals are ineffective. Some people operate best in spurts, some people can work long hours every day and maintain motivation, some people have tremendous luck in whatever field they are trying to pursue – but for those who want to kick-start a project and don’t know where to begin, developing a plan that incorporates consistent action and accounts for future obstacles can help you keep on track.
Goal-planning doesn’t need to be difficult! You just need to start.