20 Jul

Fishing for Excuses?

We say there isn’t enough time, that we’re too busy. We say it passes too quickly, and wonder if we’ve done enough for the age we are.

But time is a red herring.

It distracts us from the real matter at hand.

I’m all for SMART goals—goals that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timebound. (Timebound, after all, comes from the idea that a “goal is a wish with a deadline.”)  Time, in that case, is used as an external motivator. It drives forward movement.

But that kind of motivation doesn’t last very long. It can, in fact, work against us. Sometimes SMART isn’t.

Think about it: How often have you missed a deadline you set? How do you feel afterwards? (I’m guessing you’re not exactly raring to go set another deadline.)

For a lot of us, as we get closer to a deadline, we blame time. We start to use a deadline’s nearness as an excuse for why it can’t be done, and we give up entirely. That not only sets up a cycle of more missed deadlines, it reinforces perceptions of ourselves as hopeless procrastinators, at best, and abject failures at worst.

Yet we all have 1440 minutes, and they all pass at the same pace for each of us.

Which means we have to take time out of the equation.

TIME doesn’t make you do something. YOU do.

The question isn’t, “Do I really want (or need) to get this done by a certain date?”

It’s ”Do I really want to get this thing done, or not?” And really, ”Am I willing to do what it takes to do it?” Your progress, your success, is a product of your actions.

(Yes, the rules are a little different for organizations, where a missed deadline can literally mean the life and death of the business. That’s not what I’m talking about here.)

So why do we blame time? It’s easy. It’s there. Everyone else does. But that’s not good enough. Not if we want to make big changes happen. Big changes happen through small changes—lots and lots of them. And making lots and lots of small changes takes lots and lots of time.

How quickly you make changes doesn’t matter.
Making them, on whatever schedule, does.

The secret to that isn’t time. It’s choice. It’s making the choice that moves you closer to your goals…and accepting that it’s you—not time—making it. It’s asking yourself, whenever there’s an option, ”Am I contributing to my goals, or complicating them?” And that has nothing to do with time.

Each of us has a red herring. What’s yours?

image credit: timparkinson