How to Think Differently About Long-Term Goals

Kristi writes for Juggling Normal and Medium. This post first appeared here, and is published in full with permission.

I wrote this sitting under our maple tree — Happy Fall!

Maple by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

— Chinese Proverb

We planted an Autumn Maple Blaze in the Spring of 2011 that turns the most gorgeous colors imaginable in the fall. It’s more than twenty feet tall, and it’s my favorite tree of all time.

I’ve seen the great banyans in Hawaii, the inspiring oaks in Savannah, the startling surprise of the Jacaranda in Sydney, the towering redwoods of Muir Woods, and the perfect contrast of the Bougainvillea in Greece — the baobabs of Africa and the Cherry Blossoms of Japan are still on our list.

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Jacaranda by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

I love our maple tree now that it’s big enough that we can put Adirondack chairs under it, but when I think back, I realize I’ve loved it since the day we planted it.

I loved it as a small tree — the first time the leaves changed, we were so excited. I’ve loved it as it’s grown, how it’s changed, and how the kids and dog love it too.

Each season, I’m surprised by how much it grows and how comforting that growth has become. No matter how hard the winter is, the buds return in spring.

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Banyan by Fallon Michael on Unsplash

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

Martin Luther

Building a business takes time.

Raising a family takes time.

Self-development takes time.

All the big, important things take time.

But we get impatient, and we have it backward. We act as if we can’t love something until we check it off our list. In the meantime, it’s work. It’s a commitment. It’s discipline. It’s a responsibility, a burden, duty and obligation, pressure, and a dozen other words that take the joy right out of the journey.

So, we erect goalposts and look forward to scoring instead. When I…make six figures, gross a million dollars, find the one, get married, have a baby, quit smoking, quit drinking, lose 20 pounds, buy a bigger house, buy a new car, get a better job, go on more exotic vacations, find the time, find the money, break free.

See what we did there? We took away joy and freedom. That’s what I mean about backward.

Stop.

Just stop.

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Oak by Ryan Arnst on Unsplash

Our ordinary mind always tries to persuade us that we are nothing but acorns and that our greatest happiness will be to become bigger, fatter, shinier acorns; but that is of interest only to pigs. Our faith gives us knowledge of something better: that we can become oak trees.

— E.F. Schumacher

I get it, the sense of urgency, the pressure to succeed, the window of opportunity, the need to generate leads, conversions, and income is real.

I understand, it’s weighty; the consequences, the expectation to achieve, the biological clock, the desire to make something happen now — it’s palpable.

Yes, we live in an instant gratification world, but if we don’t make peace with patience, we miss the gifts unfolding in each moment, over each season, and they are just as real, just as palpable.

Patience doesn’t mean passivity, resignation, or weakness; it means relaxing into what is, letting go of what you want to happen, but taking steps anyway. It’s enduring, detaching, and flowing simultaneously, balancing perspective with readiness, channeling energy into heightened anticipation and appreciation. Patience is savoring, and the payoff is enormous — it’s sustainability, longevity, and legacy.

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Redwood by Kevin Wolf on Unsplash

He who plants a tree plants a hope.

— Lucy Larcom

When we view our work, family, and even ourselves as a masterpiece in progress, it shifts the energy from instantaneously to continuously, frantic to focused, now or never to unwavering, and from obligation to freedom.

Look at what we get to create — See how it’s becoming so much better than we hoped. Where will it lead?

Look at how we can invest, what a treat to see how our investment grows — It’s so much more than we knew it would be.

A masterpiece.

The only thing it takes to see it for what it is, to see it as the masterpiece it is, is to decide it’s a masterpiece and then enjoy the process. Enjoy the work. Enjoy the obligation. Trust the process. Better yet, commit in the name of love, not obligation. Choose what you want, what you love, and honor your choices.

Enjoy your journey. Love your life. It’s the secret.

If you can love where you are, what you have, what you’re building, the outcome becomes the icing on the cake — It’s already so, so good.

Love the trees until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year.

— Chad Sugg

We could go crazy and buy up everything to furnish and decorate a home in one weekend. Still, it won’t be the same as acquiring beautiful, meaningful mementos and souvenirs over time, stumbling on irresistible bargains, or being passed down a handcrafted treasure.

We can hire out every aspect of our business, from the name to the logo to the website to the marketing, sales, operations, and then run ads, buy followers, hustle hard. Still, it won’t be the same as figuring it out, watching it come together, steering off course, recalibrating, and course-correcting, knowing we can do it, attracting our people, and creating a showpiece that reflects our values and improves the world.

We think we want the short-cuts, the playbook, the cheat codes, and maybe they help, but they aren’t what we need.

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Cherry by Manuel Cosentino on Unsplash

The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.

— Soren Kierkegaard

When we do the work, invest over time, stay on the path, it becomes about more than just progress, more than just money, more than just goals. We learn about what we are doing, of course; we develop best practices and become experts. But we also experience a journey of self-discovery.

Long-term goals aren’t about winning; they are about who we must become to achieve them. They should always lead to something better — a better future, a better outcome, your best life.

We can’t know for certain where it’s headed, that it will pay off in proportion to what we’ve ventured, what will happen next or even if there will be a next, we simply have to plant seeds, water them, and hope for the best. We know that someone someday will appreciate the shade, and if we are lucky, it may even be us.

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Bougainvillea by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

I wrote this sitting under our maple tree — Happy Fall!

Don’t forget to look up and admire what you’ve planted.

Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.

— Herman Hesse
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  1. Pingback: Urgent! Make The Most Of Your Life - Juggling Normal

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