Direction Over Speed: Striving for Deferred Success in an Instant Gratification Society
Updated: Feb 16
We all want to be successful right? Success is so subjective though; your version of success will look different from mine, and that's the beauty of it. We all have the freedom to dream up our own version of what that means to us, but the one thing that all versions of success posses...is happiness. The goal is to be happy and what one person needs to be happy is vastly different from what their neighbor may need to be happy, and how they get there will certainly be a journey all it's own!
What is Success?
For some people it's a small house, that's easy to maintain with a beautiful view, or lots of time to travel. They don't need a lot of money, just enough for the basics. Dominion over their time and the freedom to decide what to do with it is success. For others, it's climbing the corporate ladder, finding the financial stability to be able to be a stay at home mom, or being their own boss. Whatever your definition of success is, unless you were born into a wealthy family, became an overnight YouTube sensation, or hit a stroke of dumb luck, it's likely going to be a journey to get to where you ultimately want to be. This brings me to what not many people see when looking at someone they consider to be successful's story...future focused dedication. This is vastly different from dedication alone, mainly because dedication can last for a day or a week, it's a feeling. I can be dedicated today but wake up tomorrow and decide I'm not longer interested. When someone can understand that what they want is isn't going to be realized for years and still decide to wake up every day grinding for it, the result is success. People who weren't a part of the building phase only see the end result, the snapshot in time, and think these individuals are lucky. They rarely consider what it took to get there.
Future Focused Dedication
Future focused dedication is when someone can convince themselves to stick to something despite having an understanding that their actions won't bear fruit for some time. Those that have future focused dedication understand that good things come to those who wait, but more importantly, they also understand that you can't JUST wait. You have to put some footwork with that patience. Every day (well most days) you have to get up and DO something that will support you achieving that goal. Future focused dedication works in almost every facet of goal setting. Health, financial freedom, raising quality humans, you name it!
Why it's Rare
We live in a time preference society. People want what they want, and they want it now. We see people try taking shortcuts to financial success through get rich quick schemes or scam phone calls preying on the vulnerable. We see shortcuts to love though mail order brides, or online dating, and shortcuts to good grades through sites like Chegg or Course Hero. A minuscule amount, if any, of the people admired in the world today for their successes got there by taking shortcuts. The harsh truth? You don't have the success you're capable of because you aren't willing to put forth the necessary faith and effort to have it. Most of these shortcuts promise quick roads to riches, but most who take them find themselves at a dead end.
What future focused dedication affords you, is peace. You aren't in a hurry to get there, because you already have a full understanding that it's a marathon not a sprint. That's okay though. We appreciate things that take us on a journey, because it makes the reward so much sweeter when we finally reach it.
How to Use It
First, let me say that I consider myself to be in the middle of my "success journey," so I am not giving advice from the seat of someone that has "made it," but I've found that this mindset is extremely beneficial and conducive to a successful life, whatever that means for you.
The number one thing you need to do is set some goals. Start with a high level goal; the goal that's your end game, or where you want to end up. Then branch off from those to set midlevel goals that are either necessary or very helpful to get to the high level goal. Lastly, you set the low level goals. These are goals that can be done in the near future. Things that are the closest to being possible today. Take your time with this, because you need to believe it. Trust it. Live for it. This isn't possible if you don't believe in every fiber of who you are that it's realistic. You will likely want to achieve multiple high level goals, but I don't recommend trying to juggle more than 2 or 3 of these. For example, I could want to become a best selling author, get both of my children through college, and become a millionaire all at the same time which will require 3 different goal structures. This is fine, but the more you add the more likely it is you'll become overwhelmed and not be as proactive in hitting your mark. Below is an example of the goal structure I've used for myself if you would like somewhere to start.
Now, you can't write this out, never look at it again, and think anything is going to progress. You have to consistently check in with yourself. Put yourself on your own calendar for a meeting with yourself. If you can set aside time for meetings and tasks that benefit other people's needs you can take 20 minutes to check in with yourself to review what you can do that week that will help you get closer to checking off one of your low level goals. Once this is written I like to think it's permanent (until it's not). You should hardly ever touch your structure once it's put in place as long as you put a lot of effort into thinking about it and making sure it's realistic when you are creating it. I say it's like changing insurance outside the enrollment period. It's only able to be changed for major life event's like, job changes, getting married/divorced (not getting a boyfriend), or having or losing children.
It's that easy. Then you just follow it until you step your way up to that high level goal. The hard parts are setting a structure you believe in and actually committing to working it...every day. Some days you will feel more motivated than others, that's okay. No one said you have to be motivated to do something. Just do it.
Direction vs. Speed
We touched on speed a bit when talking about the time preference that is plaguing our culture. Media and influencers would have you believe that you should have it all together by the time you graduate high school or even college, but for the average person, that just isn't realistic and we all know that comparison is the thief of joy. You've got to put your blinders on. Don't look at what other people are doing, wearing, or sharing. Most of it is illusion anyway and you can't compare your real life to other people's highlight reels.
Kylie Jenner was a billionaire by the time that she turned 20, but let's face it, she had a leg up compared to you and I. Did you know that the average first time home buyer is 33 years old and that home is on average only $215,000? You've got time! Only 34% of households make over $100,000 a year, many of which include more than one person working, AND it includes every age group. Ground yourself with facts and not with what it SEEMS like everyone else is doing.
Why is direction important? Well, there is a common analogy told about what a one degree difference in direction can make when flying a plane. I like this specific wording of the analogy from 5AM Joel:
"Imagine an airplane leaving from Los Angeles flying direct to Rome, Italy. The flight will take about 12 hours if the plane goes in a direct and straight line.
But, if the nose of the airplane is pointed just 1 degree off course to the south, after 12 hours the plane will land somewhere in Tunisia, Africa! If there is a one degree difference to the north the plane might land in Slovenia or Austria!"
This tells us if we focus on how fast we are going as opposed to being focused on the direction (our plan/ goal structure) we will end up so far from our goal that we'll have to write a whole new goal structure just to get to the same place that we thought we were going originally, and now we really are going to be a lot older once we get there.
None of this was to discourage you from wanting to be successful. Like i said, we all want happiness. We all want to feel like we achieved that for ourselves. I'm just telling you that it probably isn't going to happen overnight, and the people that you admire...ask them! Ask them what it took for them to achieve their level of success. I guarantee you the answer will surprise you. There's a reason why we admire successful people so much. It's because deep down we know it isn't easy. If it was, everyone would be successful, and they aren't, but YOU can be, by prioritizing direction over speed, putting on your social blinders, and working your goal structure.
Just my thoughts,