A Journey of a Thousand Miles begins with A Single Step

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In our Wealth Pilgrim Radio interview yesterday evening Neal Frankle & I talked a lot about passion.  What my passions are, how I discovered them, etc.  In an email to Friends of The Simple Dollar Trent Hamm recently asked for “a key piece of advice that really changed the way you saw the world and helped bring about real change in your life.”

The combination of these two events inspired me to write this post.

How I lacked the ability to set goals…

Historically I had always been a man of no specifically set goals.  I was never sure exactly why or how I developed & maintained this aversion to process oriented accomplishment.  Whatever the problem was — whether I just couldn’t find the time, didn’t place enough value in achievement, or maybe just didn’t want to be bothered — I had the problem.

Setting goals was not something I regularly purposed to avoid, but rather I had always been a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” type of guy who just didn’t find it commonly necessary to assimilate goals into my life.

I may have grown tired of this character flaw at different times, but never had the proper set of circumstances materialize to spur me into actually implementing change.  I suppose I always found goal setting to be overwhelming, rendering me frustrated and unable to formulate a personal achievement plan.  Looking back now, I can see how the truth of that last statement may have embodied my goal paralysis.

What finally woke me up…

In January of 2009 the stars finally aligned so to speak when I found a desperately simple piece of advice that would finally remove the scales from my eyes allowing me to understand the incredible value process oriented achievement could bring, and just how I could implement a goal setting strategy that worked for me into my life.  This lucid quote brought it all together for me:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”  – Lao Tzu

Glancing over the quote after typing it I suppose the key could lie in the way the quote combines the wonder and excitement of travel & discovery with accomplishing established tasks in life.  Whatever brought me clarity — whether it was the element of adventure, the lack of desired achievement, or the hope of future accomplishment — I have that clarity.

How setting goals has helped me achieve…

Since first reading that quote early this year, I have established life achievement goals and worked to break those down into smaller, more achievable and tangible short-term goals.  I have also been able to successfully implement goals into every aspect of my life, including my personal finance.  The understanding gained also goes beyond goal setting and helps me better work toward achieving anything I set my mind to because I am no longer overwhelmed with the entire process.  I have been able to set up a working, living, family budget.  I have been able to increase my ability to read and finish books.  I have been able to lose nearly 40 pounds.  I have been able to grow more and more self-reliant.  I have been able to change my eating habits to include predominately healthy, local, organic foods.  I am closer with my wife and I am closer with my God.

There are other examples of implementation but I think you understand the power this simple quote has allowed me to find within myself.

What about you?

Are you naturally a goal-oriented person or did you need a similar eye opening piece of information to help you finally adopt a goal centered, and purpose driven life?



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1 Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu – truer words never spoken. My favorite saying is, Just freakin’ DO IT! You never know what you can accomplish until you try.

2 ctreit

The first step is often the hardest. If you think about the thousand miles ahead, you would never make the first step. One step is just too insiginficant. Alas, the first step is the most important one. Once you get going, it is a lot easier to keep going. – Nice post!

3 Jason R Fisher

I have always been pretty goal oriented. I needed my wife to help with my follow through though. I am good at that first 90% of what ever I am working on but the little details at the end kill me.

4 Brent

I am goal oriented but I am a terrible procrastinator. I have have good deadlines or I’ll never get anything done, especially when it comes to something like saving for retirement. Fortunately my wife is the type we should all be like and makes me get things done now, instead of waiting.

5 Matt Jabs

@Jason & Brent: I’m glad you guys brought up wives… my wife plays an integral part in my success. I do not want to think about my life in the absence of her support. She is an amazing gift!

6 K-IntheHouse

Excellent points, Matt! I am goal oriented but I take too many on my plate and lose sight of so many things I want to do. I try to use tools like Remember the Milk and most recently my iPhone to stay focused but as You guys have mentioned it is much easier when your wife motivates you to see through your goals. I am lucky there as well.

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