“This story is inspired by a poem by a Tibetan monk called Rimpoche. I am retelling it with my own words to reveal one other characteristic of us, human beings.”
I’m getting up in the morning. I’m going out.
There is a pit on the sidewalk.
I do not see it and I fall into it.
The next day I’m going out,
I forget that there is a pit on the sidewalk,
and again I fall into it.
On the third day, I come out of the house and try to remember,
that there is a pit on the sidewalk.
However, I forget and I fall into it.
On the fourth day, I leave home and try to remember the pit.
I remember and yet,
I do not see the trap and fall into it.
On the fifth day, I’m going out.
I remember that I should be careful about the hole in the pavement,
So I am walking, looking down.
I see it, however, I fall into it.
On the sixth day, I’m going out.
I remember the pit.
Looking for it with my eyes,
I’m trying to skip it, but I fall into it.
On the seventh day, I’m going out.
I see the pit. I run, I jump,
with the tip of my foot, I touch the opposite edge,
but it is not enough and I fall into it.
On the eighth day, I’m going out,
I see the pit, I run, I jump and I get on the other side!
I’m so proud of myself that I celebrate with joyful jumps…
And I slip, I fall again in the pit.
On the ninth day, I’m going out,
I see the pit, I run, I jump
and continue on my way.
On the tenth day, right today,
I understand that is easier to go on the opposite sidewalk.
The moral of this story will most definitely be of help to anyone interested in goal setting.
Including you who must be already wondering how so…
Everyone has their own “hole” to cope with
This must be painfully familiar – you strive towards an objective but there are all sort of things that you trip over. Worse, you keep running into the same problem over and over again. No matter what you do and how hard you try it doesn’t seem to go away.
But there is an easy way out of this. And it doesn’t require you to remember about the hole. You don’t have to fixate on it or how to jump over. All could be done with much less effort and energy on your part.
You can simply choose to take your stroll somewhere else.
Well, there is one precondition. It isn’t so much about where your road lies, but…
… where it is supposed to take you.
Тhere is plenty of places for you to be walking safely along, in your town as in your life.
Probably there will be loose tiles and potholes there waiting for you. They will all get you somewhere but it is up to you alone to pick the one route that will take you exactly where you want.
That’s why our “GoalBudy” system stresses the importance of clearly defining the long-term vision – your destination. Once you have the objective set you can develop the 90-day strategies, or in terms of the above metaphor – which sidewalk to get on.
Why can’t you see it?
When you are too busy thinking about the many plans and worries about your goal you might very well miss all the warning signs that you are on the wrong track. Being aware of the above possibility is only the first step and it is not enough because you may still end up making the same mistake again.
Why do you fall in it even when you can see it?
Have you ever had this happened to you when you totally immerse yourself in a problem?
It’s quite likely that you are fixating too much on how to solve it instead of how to avoid it in the first place. And then you end up being foiled by the same thing again and again. One possibility for this behavior is that you need some justification for the little progress you made so far. “As if you can explain away your failure with the words, “I knew it! It always happens to me…”
Perhaps there is another factor at play here. Let’s try to shed some light on it.
Why does it keep happening?
For good or bad we, as human beings, are a sum of our habits.
Some of our problems may not be as real as we think. The explanation for this could be rooted in our past when we had to face a difficult situation and we did so more or less successfully. This experience became a habit of formatting one for us. Since that moment we are more than willing to apply the same solution again and again regardless if it is warranted or not.
For example, when you go for a jog every morning on the same track by the beach just because it was the one you decided on when you first started running. And you are doing that even if for months now you have already had an excellent running app. Of course, you can select a different route along the promenade to enjoy the beauty of the view but you still stick to the old and familiar.
It is a very normal characteristic of human nature indeed.
And, it turns out, not just human.
Don’t be the elephant!
And we don’t mean the one in the room but those in India. When it’s needed they get tied to a little peg. So small, indeed, that the animal can easily break free if it wishes to do so. And yet, this never happens.
The reason is that they have been tied like that since they were very little. And it was really enough of a strong tether to keep them in place. So, the elephant grows up believing it’s pointless to try.
It’s pretty much the same story with us. We may think we know well our own capabilities but we also have a limited perception of our potential to break free and this often stops us from even trying. These self-imposed restrictions are more or less the boundaries of the so-called comfort zone.
In order to get rid of this serfdom is to start with baby steps. Eventually, you will gradually gain enough of the confidence to overwrite all of your old inner inhibitions.
Another possible downside here is that our peripheral vision gets significantly restricted. And this means a diminished ability to perceive and interact with the reality.
Let’s go back to our street and see how this might be.
Why can’t you see the sidewalk on the other side?
Maybe because you already got used to your sidewalk and know how to proceed, while the other one scares you. You can’t be sure but it might be even more treacherous for you.
There is the undeniable discomfort when getting on a road less traveled but that’s exactly what your dreams demand of you.
If you keep failing or the same thing stops you in your tracks each time, then maybe it’s the matter of how you live. Your every single day is so busy that you don’t get the chance to hit the pause button and look at the situation with a new set of eyes. But if you do so then you can assess all available possibilities.
Here’s how we suggest you break out the vicious circle.
# 1 Figure out your direction with the help of a long-term vision
Your best option is first, to be sure where you are actually going and then to realize that there is more than one approach to get there.
Do it today. Take the time to write down how you would like them to be and why they are of value to you now as well as in 25 years. Make sure that these couple of pages are on such a carrier, be that your notebook or phone, that is easily accessible – you will have to revisit them often.
That’s how you get the much needed clear understanding of your direction. Now you will be able to go on the right path, rather than searching the city for the best pavement available.
# 2 Make the potholes “visible” with the help of the 90-day reviews
You will be coming back to your notes in three months. Some of them will be even more pressing and meaningful to you, others – not so. But there will always be something to add, remove or change.
Make it a second nature to review your visions and goals on a regular basis. Every 3 months you will sit down to find out what has been achieved and what not – whether you are on the right track or change is required.
# 3 Find a Goal Buddy
The great thing about our system is that provides you with a roadmap how to go after your objectives with caution and yet effectively.
This is, of course, not always easy.
And here comes to the rescue your Buddy. This person will support you in an invaluable manner. First, they won’t let you skip on the review process. Their other role is that they can objectively assess how well you are doing. They can help to identify issues as well as the corresponding solutions.
# 4 Being dogged and persistent isn’t always the wisest tactic…
You have to be ready to admit to yourself, or to hear it from someone else, that you are not getting anywhere and just spinning wheels. Or to put it in other words, those of Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.
There are times when the smart way trumps the virtue of hard and persistent work and thus it is much more an effective tactic.
If a bad experience can’t fully motivate you, then perhaps the opportunity offered by the sidewalk on the other side of the street, might. Simply go walk on the opposite side of the street!
Only working hard and consistently on your vision and strategy will make you fully aware of your true priorities. This will give you peace of mind and confidence to look far ahead, not just around the corner.
# 5 Getting out of the ditch with small steps
In theory, it’s simple – you first build a vision, then you set your 90-day goals, and lastly, you subject them to a critical assessment every three months. But in real life things unfold differently – it is actually the daily routine that can be this one thing that’s responsible. The hard part is not to let it happen anymore. That’s how you can do it.
You should have a well thought out plan every week for each of your goals.
And that’s the key to it all. Don’t expect to somehow manage to squeeze in your busy schedules yet one more item, especially when it is about your goals. Make it easier for yourself.
Sit down on Sunday evening and decide what those 2 or 3 small steps should be. But make sure these are of the “domino effect” type and therefore, can trigger many more. Then, during the week, you work on them only, no second guessing them whatsoever. And only on the coming Sunday, you do sit down again to consider what you do next.
# 6 Don’t stop!
Let it all become part of your new way of achieving your objectives. Make it easy and convenient for you by choosing how to record and archive all of this process.
You’ll see how with more practice you’ll get much better at this. And the result will be that all your meetings with the Goal Buddy, the weekly steps and reviews as well as the 90-day action goals, will be like puzzle pieces falling flawlessly into their places.
We are appealing, if not begging you, not to give up on your dreams. Yes, the road is one pothole next to another and the Municipality won’t be taking care of it any time soon. It’s entirely up to you to go forward despite all that and to enjoy having a fulfilling life.
Write in the comments section what your “hole in the sidewalk” was. Have you ever had such an experience when you stumble repeatedly at the same thing? And what exactly would you change after reading this article? Thank you very much!
 The quote and the poem are from the book “Stories to think about” by Jorge Bucay.