Have you ever seen a baby learn to walk? According to BabyCenter, most babies take their first steps between 9 and 12 months old, and walk by the time they’re 14 or 15 months old. Some babies take longer, walking only when they’re 17 months old, though it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong — it’s simply different babies needing different time for development.
Imagine you have a baby (if you are a parent, no imagining needed), and he’s now 9 months old. You support him as he learns to walk — first holding his hand, letting him stand, then letting him walk with support, and then slowly letting go. But every time you do the last step, he stops, wobbles, and falls.
What do you do now? Do you continue supporting him? Or do you stop trying? How many chances do you, as the mother/father, give your baby before you say, “That’s it, that’s ENOUGH. You’ve had your chance, I’m not giving you any more tries!”
You’re probably going, “What, are you CRAZY?? Of course I’m going to let my baby keep trying until he walks! He’s going to try for as many times as he needs, for as long as it takes!“
So why is it that so many of us don’t do the same when it comes to our goals?
I first heard this baby-walking analogy from a Jim Rohn clip years ago. While he didn’t put it in the exact way I did above, the message is the same — that none of us, as the mother/father of our child, would ever give up on our baby as he/she learns to walk, no matter what happens.
“How long should a baby try to learn how to walk? How long would you give your average baby before you say ‘enough…!’? Any mother would say ‘you’re crazy, my baby is going to keep trying until it learns!’” – Jim Rohn
Why? Because that’s our baby we’re talking about. Whether he/she is taking a long time to walk is irrelevant. What matters is that we keep supporting and guiding him/her, period. Even if he/she doesn’t show any improvement after months, we will just keep trying and pushing forward. Right to the day he/she walks, after which we’ll rejoice for our baby’s success.
Yet, when it comes to our goals and dreams, most of us are ready to throw in the towel and declare, “That’s it, this is not working out, I’m going to give up and stop doing this,” sometimes as quickly as after 1-2 months of trying. For example, losing weight, being healthy, pursuing our passion, starting our business, finding our ideal partner, building our blog, and so on. For some of us, it’s even worse—we give up before we even start!
What Helped Me Pursue My Passion without Reservation
I remember one of the defining moments that helped me plunge headfirst into my passion was when I asked myself, What do I want to be doing five years from now?
At that time, I was still in my day job, and had been working for two years. My answer then was, I want to be pursuing my passion and raising the consciousness of the world. Not what I’m doing now.
However, a key block preventing me from moving forward was not knowing what to do if I didn’t succeed — and after quitting my day job no less. Embarrassment and scrutiny by others aside (which were lesser issues to be honest), I felt that I would have jeopardized my professional career since I would have quit my job after only two years into the role. By then, I would be in a deadlock where not only did I not succeed in my passion, but I would have also thwarted my career development path (compared to if I didn’t quit).
The thought of failure was paralyzing, to be honest. As much as I wanted to pursue my passion more than anything, as much as I wanted to devote all my mind, body, heart, and soul to my passion, I couldn’t guarantee its success since I don’t control the world. There’s no way I’m going to quit [my job] with these huge possible downsides, I thought. I don’t believe any of those “just do it!” spiels too, because I don’t believe in taking large risks without first having a plan.
As it turned out, the solution for this deadlock was quite simple and required a simple perspective shift.
So I asked myself, Okay, so what if the worst-case scenario happens? I.e., what if I quit, spend a year or two working on my passion, use up all my savings, and make no headway? While I can keep pushing myself forward, I mean, how am I supposed to survive without money?
My answer was then to logically return to the corporate world to earn more money.
…And then what? What’s next? I thought. Do I remain in the corporate world and continue working there?
No, of course not! was my immediate reply. I’ll just work for at most 1-2 more years (or however long it’s going to take to accumulate some savings). Then when I earn enough to sustain myself for another year or two, I can then quit again to pursue my passion full throttle, just like what I’m going to do now. In the meantime while I’m in my corporate job, I can still work on my business part time, such that it won’t be at a standstill.
And then, if I run out of savings again after quitting, I can simply repeat the cycle of working to accumulate cash. And then quit *again* a year or two later to pursue it. Then rinse and repeat until my passion takes off.
Bingo. Here was the answer, all along. What liberated me was seeing my passion not as a one-off pursuit, but a process to be undertaken. Rather than think about it as a venture I needed to succeed in in 1-2 years, I should see it as a life-long journey, with my exit from the corporate world as the first of many steps to making my passion happen. It’s a process, not a race. And from there on, working on it, for as long as it takes, right to the point it takes off and beyond.
(I’ve documented my passion journey throughout my early blog articles. In short, I’ve since turned my passion into a full-time career, turned my blog into one of the top personal development blogs in the world, and achieved financial freedom by turning PE into a passive-income business in 2012.)
Your Goal = Your Baby
Now, returning to the baby-walking example. The point is that when it comes to our baby, we will do everything in our power to help him/her. We don’t give up on our baby just because he/she isn’t walking after X weeks or months or even years… all that matters is that we devote ourselves to supporting him/her to walk, for as long as it takes.
This is the same for any other skill our baby learns, be it to eat, talk, count, kick, throw, etc. No parent says, “That’s it, no more chances!” when their baby doesn’t do any of these things successfully after 1, 2, 3, or 5 tries. That’s just silly. We do whatever it takes, and give our baby as many attempts as he/she needs, to finally do it.
Similarly, when it comes to our goals, it’s about nurturing them and giving them the time to blossom and grow. Trying different ways and all sorts of things to tackle our obstacles and get around them. Doing this for as long as it takes, until we succeed.
Spend “As Long As It Takes” to Make Our Goals Happen
Now, perhaps we have pursued one or more of the following before, with limited success:
- Lose weight
- Eat healthily
- Stop stress eating
- Quit smoking
- Quit drinking
- Start a blog / Run a blog
- Start a business
- Pursue your passion
- Switch to a new career path
- Complete your diploma/degree/masters/PhD
- Improve your relationships
- Improve your family relationships
- Finding your soulmate
- Achieve a certain professional milestone
- Any other goal
For some of us, perhaps we have given up on these goals. That’s fine. If there are ever goals that don’t fit our purpose or values, or if there are goals that are taking more effort than what they mean to us, then we should drop them for sure.
However, if these are goals that are important to us, that will make a permanent difference in our life… then we really shouldn’t (give up). Because the worthiest of goals aren’t going to get accomplished the first try. In fact, the worthier and grander the goal, the more resistance we’ll face, and the more time and effort we need to put in to ensure their success. This is where designing a plan, crafting a strategy, coming up with a counter-plan for our obstacles, and setting an action plan are critically important. By pursuing our goals deliberately and consciously and giving them our undivided time and attention, it is a matter of time before they take off.
After all, which of us managed to walk flawlessly when we were a baby, without wobbling, stumbling, or falling, in our first try? Probably none.
So, why should we expect our goals to take off in our first try?
Just like how a baby is expected to wobble, stumble, and/or fall in his/her first few attempts to walk, we shouldn’t be shocked or dejected when we wobble, stumble, or even fall in our goals. Rather, we should realize that wobbling, stumbling, or even falling is the norm, and instead devote ourselves to investing time and energy to making them succeed.
Let’s give our goals the chance they deserve. Let’s not give up on them and declare them “unachievable” when they’ve always required more time and energy than what we’ve invested to tackle them. For the most important of goals and dreams — such as reaching our ideal weight, being a healthy eater, turning our passion into our career, fostering the most important relationships of our life, finding that ideal relationship partner, achieving a personal or professional milestone that is important to us — sometimes, “as long as it takes” may well be the length of time we need to devote for them to eventually take off.
For tips on taking your goals/projects to completion: