There's a Long Road Ahead (So Choose a Beautiful One)


Lately I’ve noticed quite a disconnect in the goals people have for themselves and the plans they have for achieving those goals. Having goals is an important step towards living intentionally, but it’s only one step. There are many other things you’ll need to do to achieve those goals.

I’m afraid that some people are under the impression that setting goals is the most important step in achieving goals. As if after setting goals, the rest of the details will “work themselves out.” That just isn’t true. Setting goals is really only a small step towards achieving your goals. In between the two will be a long road and lots of hard work.

The Long Road Ahead

I’m especially talking about lifestyle goals here. I see the biggest disconnect in what people want from their lifestyles and what they plan to do to get there. It may be that being naive about what it will take to achieve something is just part of the process. Maybe everyone needs to flounder for a while before it becomes clear that hard work is really the only sure road to success. Still, I don’t think you need to waste too much time in that stage, so I’m going to try to help you get past that floundering a little quicker.

People who want to live an unconventional lifestyle and who really connect with the concept of lifestyle design often spend a lot of time searching for the secrets to unlocking a 4-hour workweek. It’s natural to want to believe that there are major shortcuts that smart people can take advantage of to get ahead. The “get rich quick” scheme is one of the oldest business models around because it works. Human psychology is susceptible to it.

So we see a lot of people selling systems for Internet riches, seminars about creating overnight wealth and strategies for automating your life. Some of the systems might actually work for some people. But, don’t think for a minute that the people who succeed don’t put in extraordinary effort to get there. Sure, every once in a while someone gets really lucky and strikes it rich with little effort. But you shouldn’t expect that you will be that person. That would be like adopting a lottery ticket retirement plan.

I’m not only talking about people searching for get rich quick schemes. Really, the more troubling disconnect I see between goals and plans exists among well-intentioned people who simply have unrealistic expectations. I’ve heard from lots of people lately who have set goals that would be achievable only by the best of the best, but then the person who set the goals shows no evidence of being anywhere near as good or dedicated as others who have actually done what he is trying to do.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to be able to support yourself from an online business within 6 months so you can travel the world and only work 20-30 hours per week. You’ll need a monthly income of $2000 at first to cover your expenses abroad. Is that possible? Absolutely. How much effort will you have to put forward to get there? An extreme amount.

Here’s where the disconnect occurs. Someone who is smart and well intentioned sets a goal for themselves like our example. Then, he spends two months researching online businesses and settles on starting a blog as the best way to reach his goal. Now he has four months to become a professional blogger earning $2000 per month. Is that possible? Sure, but probably only for the best and most dedicated people.

The problem is that our hero is nowhere near being the best or most dedicated blogger ever. He is writing 1-2 mediocre posts per week. His blog is attracting 50 readers per day after two months of blogging (four months after setting his goal to support himself while traveling). We’re two months away from his deadline, and he actually doesn’t even have much of an idea about how money will be made from his blog. He’s heard that you can make money with advertising, but when he put Google Adsense on his blog for a week, he earned a grand total of $3.52.

Can the guy in our example become a professional blogger? Yes, but probably not in the remaining two months. Our hero is on the two-year plan to achieving his goal, but he thinks he’s on the two-month plan. When he doesn’t reach is unrealistic goal, will he keep trying?

Think about the goals you’ve set for yourself. What plans do you have in place for reaching those goals? Are the plans realistic? Do you know anyone else who has achieved a similar goal in the amount of time you’ve given yourself? If so, how hard are you working compared to how hard she worked, and how good or experienced at what you’re attempting are you in relation to her?

I’m not saying that you can’t succeed overnight. Some people get lucky. Some people work their asses off. The biggest successes work their asses off and get lucky.

Are you working your ass off? Or, are you just hoping to get lucky?

Choosing a Beautiful Road

Here’s the reality that most people don’t talk about. If you’re trying to dramatically change your lifestyle and start a new business, you probably have a long road ahead of you. Most people won’t make the journey because they weren’t prepared for just how hard it would be, and they give up.

It’s hard to stay dedicated to something long enough to succeed if you’re not sure where the end is. Starting a new business has so many variables involved that it’s hard to know what it will take to succeed. The best you can do is compare yourself and your business to other people who have gone before you. It’s much different than trying to be a doctor or accountant or some other established profession that has a defined path. Entrepreneurs have to deal with a lot more uncertainty.

That’s one of the reasons that so many people are talking about passion these days. Passion can keep you from quitting when you feel like there’s no end in sight. Passion can help you enjoy the road to your destination enough that you don’t have to only rely on your desire to reach the destination. Desire alone might get you there if the journey is short, but what if it takes two or three or five years?

Luckily, you have a choice. As long as you’re deciding on your goals and how you will reach them, why not choose to do something you enjoy? If you choose a beautiful road, you’ll enjoy the journey and have a much better chance of reaching your destination.

What do you think? Are your plans and goals realistically aligned? Have you chosen a beautiful road?

photo by Wolfgang Staudt

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Hi, I’m Corbett Barr. I’ve been writing here since 2009. Join my email list for new articles about supporting yourself doing something you love: