Looking For Mercy Street
Having – and executing upon – a long-term vision is one of the most difficult things humans can do. Our brains are simply not wired for seeing long into the future and taking steps daily to get from here to there. Adding to the fact that our brains were built to deal with short-term crises (think escaping a lion or hunting for that day’s food), modern day society barrages us with so many ‘get results quickly with no efforts!’ messages that it is a wonder people still achieve great things over long periods at all.
But they do. And you can too. Here is how.
It is vital you understand that real success is the result of quiet little actions done consistently over time. It is true that the outcome of those daily undertakings can be something grand and loud – a victory at the Super Bowl, an epic guitar solo, a great book or poem, or some amazing event. However the real success is in taking steps daily, softly, persistently, without fanfare. Further, the journey is invariably more enjoyable than the event or outcome itself. So truly embrace the notion that incremental actions are the foundation of any great outcome. The real victory takes place far away from the crowds, in solitude, when no one is watching. This perspective shift will help you connect the dots from here to long into the future.
Next, understand on a deep level that no matter what, time passes. I was speaking to a good friend about a year ago, helping him set goals. Among other things, I made the obvious but powerful statement that regardless of anything else, regardless of what he did or didn’t do, time would pass, and he would look back at this moment as some future self. The only question was what actions would he have taken in the interim. Six months after that conversation he noted that of everything we discussed, that one comment stuck out. Time passes no matter what, the only question is what you do with the precious moments we have on earth. When you look back at whatever time frame you want – last week, a year ago, 10 years ago…and think about the present, can you not say with utmost honesty that where you are today is a function of actions you did or did not take? Not all the shit that was in your brain. Not all that time spent brooding over the past, or fearing the future. None of that time, none of that effort, had any impact whatsoever on the person you became. The only thing that ultimately mattered was the series of decisions you made, moment by moment, in the quiet of your mind. Some decisions, some actions, matter more than others – whom you choose as your (hopefully) life-long partner, how you treat your mind & body, what your profession is, what friends you surround yourself with. But ultimately it is your decisions and actions over any given period of time that create the present day you. You now have choices big and small to make about what kind of ‘future you’ will exist in the blink of an eye.
It is as important to know what you don’t want as much as what you do want in order to fulfill a vision. The ability to say no, to get rid of that which is unnecessary in fulfilling your goals, is vital. We are inundated daily with information, with opportunities to be distracted. Get comfortable with saying no, get disciplined about not reading yet another article, or watching endless videos, about how Trump is lying about this or that. Saying no requires a deep conviction and alignment in what you want out of life combined with a profound awareness - a consciousness - about where you are, who you are, and what you are doing at any moment in time (more on these topics in future Health Reports).
A tree can only be a tree. A snake will forever be a snake. But one uniqueness of being human is that you can be virtually anything you want to be. You can be sad. You can be happy. You can be fit, or fat. You can read or not read. You can reach out to someone or keep to yourself. You can be nice or mean. You can be a fireman or a teacher. You can work on a relationship or let it go. You can reinvent yourself. You have choice. I was fortunate early in life to develop an interest in and ultimately a skill around goal setting, the vision thing. At age eleven I set the goal of becoming a world sailing champion within 10 years. At 19, after taking actions daily towards that goal, I realized my vision. This reinforced the notion to me that long-term strategic thinking combined with smart daily actions (and hard work) could lead to great things over time. I just had to decide where to – and where not to – apply my energy, be it activities, people, or otherwise.
Not all visions come to fruition. You may have an incredible vision, a wonderful, beautiful, heavenly vision that is so real to you, so deep that it literally fulfills all of your senses. But that does not mean it will be so. As discussed last week, life is full of darkness among the light. But that in no way diminishes the power, the joy, of setting forth and pursuing a vision, regardless of the ultimate outcome. I would encourage you from time-to-time to find a quiet place and really contemplate what is important to you. How do you see yourself in one month’s time, a year, 10 years….Be as specific as possible. Not what you want to have, but who you want to be. You have more ability to create that future you than you realize.