A Different Way to Start Looking at the Year

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Whether starting a new year, quarter, month, or day, you may be falling victim to your own unfair expectations about time. As the year ticks over and the calendar changes, you may be wrestling with a mixture, of frustration, disappointment, and impatience.

I've seen this problem time and time again, which tells just how common this issue is for people, and it's not dependent on what walk of life people come from.

Here's what happens when you create unfair expectations on time, especially your own time. If you're focussed on getting something completed or achieved by the end of the year, and you don't achieve it, what happens when you get to the end of the year? As you review your year, looking at what you accomplished and what you didn't, you realize you didn't finish your goal. Does that mean you failed? Well, that's a matter of perspective (like all things in life).

Let's say you aimed to earn $100,000 during the year and when you get to December 31st you check where your income is at, and it lands on $97,563. You might consider that you failed. But then come January 12th, you cross that $100,000 mark. That makes for a 12-day difference between the goal you set and you achieving it. If there is a failure in there, it's with the original timeline you set. You weren't fair to yourself, and you weren't realistic with time.

Too Many Expectations, Too Little Time

Disappointment and the sense of failure typically comes down to having too small of a time horizon.

Our emotions impact how we view time. If we're feeling overconfident, we take that overconfidence forward and project it onto the next thing we work on. If we're feeling bruised or risk-averse, we carry that forward and intentionally overcompensate how much time we need to avoid the pain of disappointment again. Both exaggerate the pain or pleasure associated with achievement. Emotions have more influence on decision-making than most people like to acknowledge.

Picture This

Here's an interesting analogy that paints a great picture of how to best approach timelines. When preparing for flight, pilots are required to factor in the weight of the plane, cargo, passengers, and fuel to determine how much thrust and distance they'll need to create enough lift to get the plane skyward.
Because planes and their load vary so much from one flight to another, the airports have to factor that into their runway length. A short runway means they can only facilitate smaller aircraft to take off and land. A longer runway means they can allow for bigger, heavier planes.

Now, think of the major international airports around the world. They have very wide and long runways. Yet they still have smaller private planes taking off and landing on their runways. Is that wasted runway? No.

Having the extra runway allows for the necessary time for the plane to be able to take off. Sure, it doesn't need the whole length of the runway from start to finish, but a plane that runs out of runway won't make it off the ground.

Lengthen the Runway

Most people have their runways too short to achieve takeoff. So when they shoot for the skies, they end up running out of tarmac and land themselves in a ditch at the end of the strip. This leaves them feeling disheartened and a little bruised. Attempting takeoff like this will make you want to stop trying and leave the plane in the hanger after enough times.

My suggestion to most people who come to me with a tone of impatience about their goals is to lengthen their runway.

If you want to get something done in three months, allow for six months. If you're aiming for a year, allow for eighteen months. If you think it'll take two years, allow for it to take five years.

This might challenge you as a framework but think about what it does to your level of certainty.

If you've only got 100 meters to take off, you're going to spend the whole trip down the tarmac filled with anxiety, tension, and worry about whether or not you'll takeoff. Your certainty about achieving your goal is small, if not zero.

If you lengthen your mental runway, your certainty about achieving the goal will significantly increase, which will ease your anxiety, worry, and tension making for a smoother experience taking off.

Don't Shrug Before Departure 

You don't want the pilot of your flight to shrug when someone asks, "Will we get enough lift with this runway?" So, we wouldn't want you to shrug when it comes to you taking off with your plans.

Lengthen your runway. I tell people to double the length of their runway.

With your bigger plans and goals think about however long you think it'll take you and double it. The worst-case scenario is that you need the full length. The best case is that you get it done with plenty of time to spare that you can use elsewhere.

With that in mind, what do you stand to lose by giving yourself some extra breathing room?

Time for you to take to the skies. Make sure you've got enough runway to get up there.

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