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  • Writer's pictureBecky Upchurch

Setting Realistic Timelines

I had a friend who was always working on health and fitness. Unlike most of my friends, this friend seemed to do so faithfully, year after year. Thinking back, this was so interesting to me because no matter how long it took, the focus and dedication didn’t seem to waver. During one of those years, I too was focused on getting healthy; specifically, I was trying to lose weight…and I was getting SUPER frustrated that it was taking SO long time to happen! One day after I finished sharing my frustration, this is the gist of the response I received: “Well the way I look at it, it took me a lifetime to get here, so if it takes me half a lifetime to get where I want to go, that only half as long, and that’s a win.” I was shocked…yet it made perfect sense.

You see, this is a perfect example of the power of setting realistic timelines! Now I’m not saying that goals need to take half your lifetime to achieve…but approaching them with a pragmatic perspective makes a difference. Why was my friend able to stay SO committed to the goal no matter what? Because there were no unrealistic expectations wreaking havoc on the ability to actually take action toward the goal. And THAT made all the difference!

When it comes to achieving my goals, the biggest thing I do to sabotage myself is to get too easily discouraged. 99% of the time, I’d attribute this to not seeing the progress I want as quickly as I want it! You see, when I go after something, I get super-excited…and I CAN’T WAIT to see it come to fruition! Unfortunately, this eagerness causes me to have unrealistic expectations which in turn results in my being disappointed when they aren’t met. Over the years I’ve learned that there’s a reason that the story of the tortoise and the hare is such a popular one. At the end of the day, how quickly we accomplish something is FAR less important than how well we do it. And now that I know this, I can focus on the big picture rather than getting hung up on small details like a slightly longer timeline than I would like. Instead, I can set more realistic ones that allow me to focus on what’s REALLY important, the action plan and mindset that will get me to the goal!

One of the biggest challenges I think people have with setting goals lies in not getting discouraged when they don’t happen exactly as we had hoped or planned. Often, I think this comes in the form of our expecting to see progress more quickly than we do; this is why it is SO important to set realistic timelines!

And how do we do that exactly? While this may look different from person to person and goal to goal, there are a few things that anyone can do in any situation to help ensure our expectations aren’t setting us up for failure. First, we can break down larger goals into smaller chunks; this helps us to estimate the time that larger-scale goals will take more accurately because we measure them in smaller pieces. Second, we can consider any barriers or speed bumps that may necessitate our slowing down or taking a pause; this helps us to plan ahead for how to address them and how long they will take. Finally, we can accept in advance that things may take longer than expected; this helps us to give ourselves grace if and when it happens rather than allowing it to derail us and make matters worse.

Ultimately, the best way to make sure we are setting realistic timelines is by planning ahead and working to make it happen.

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