Relentless Patience

I believe that the most powerful tool available to a person can be the patient and determined pursuit of a goal.

In the last few years, I’ve gotten into the habit of using a formula like this when setting goals for myself:

I want to accomplish ____ as quickly as possible, no matter how long it takes.

As quickly as possible

In making progress on a goal it’s important to be focused, determined. Practically speaking, in the short term there’s not so much of a difference between “I’d like to do this someday” and “This is something I’ll probably never do.”

It’s good to be even more specific. Is it thinkable that the goal is attainable within five years? Three? One?

And then subdivide. If it’s a three-year goal, what will need to be done by the end of the year? And to get there, what’s a good goal to aim at for the end of the month?

We don’t want the goals to be too ambitious, certainly not anything unrealistic, but be honest about what might be possible and start working toward that.

No matter how long it takes

It’s easy and fun to set exciting goals, and they do give a boost of motivation. By themselves, however, they lead to frustration and failure.

Goals need to be balanced by patience.

People like to say that patience is a virtue, and it is, but it’s so much more than that.

Patience is basically a superpower.

With enough patience, we can accomplish unbelievable goals, can defeat almost anything. And we can feel good in the process.

Let’s say the goal is to read twelve big impressive books by the end of the year, and toward the end of the first month it’s becoming clear that you can’t even hit the halfway point of your first book by the time you wanted to be finished the first one.

The goal sounds like it was a good one. Without patience, though, the project would come to an end. “There’s no point!” So the whole project would amount to a third of a book finished, and nothing more.

The patient person can take stock and reevaluate. “Clearly a book a month wasn’t as attainable as I thought.” The goals will change.

Maybe the new goal is six books finished this year. Or maybe, to make for a challenge, eight books. Or maybe the first month was a month of sloth, and the original goal wasn’t overambitious; then the new goal might be eleven books this year.

Keep on adjusting. Keep on forgiving yourself. Keep making new goals as you learn and progress.

And keep remembering how much has been accomplished already, which wouldn’t have happened without those goals. That’ll be an enticement to keep on reassessing and reformulating the failed goals, rather than giving up on them altogether.

Choose a few things to focus on in this way (it’s hard to do much more than that), and see how much relentlessness can accomplish.

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