A few days ago, I glanced at the odometer of my car while I was driving my daughter to school in the morning. Usually, I don't think twice about the number of kilometers I've driven beyond reflecting on the age of my car and the need to take it to the service center for its regular maintenance check-up.
This time, however, I realized something I hadn't noticed before: In the 15 years that I've owned my car, I've driven more than 56,000 kilometers. For such a relatively old car I know it's not an extraordinarily large number. But I still felt compelled to benchmark the number against something else that could put the distance I've travelled over the years into context.
So, I Googled "circumference of the earth in kilometers" on my smartphone and this popped up: 46,000 kilometers. I was stunned: Thanks to the thousands of short, routine trips I've driven over the years -- from home to work and back, from home to my kids' school and back, to name just two of my most frequently travelled routes --I've driven a distance equivalent to circling the entire earth --and then some!
Even now, as I try to visualize myself taking a road trip around the entire earth --assuming that would even be possible-- it stretches my imagination to think of the enormous amount of time and mental energy I would need to spend just sitting and moving my feet and hands and focusing intently on the road in front of me while periodically glancing at my side and rearview mirrors. All for the sake of getting myself and my family from point A to point B.
But that's exactly what I've done in the 15 years that I've owned my car.
So, what does this all mean? For me, the net take-away is this: Sometimes, if you want to achieve a really big goal, you'll need to take dozens, maybe hundreds, and possibly thousands of really small steps over a very long period of time.
Yes, I know, this sounds obvious. But I think it's very easy to overlook this simple but powerful fact, especially in a world where so many distractions vie for our time and attention and energy. It's easy to quickly lose interest in something that might have until only recently absorbed a great deal of your time and attention.
Achieving audacious, life-changing goals --mastering a musical instrument, getting accepted into a competitive university, landing the job of your dreams, finding a soulmate and partner for life, to name just a few of the dreams many of us pursue --very often requires a level of patience and resilience that lasts for years, not months or weeks or days.
So that's it, that's what the odometer on my car reminded me of the other day. To write that book I've always wanted to publish but haven't found the time to finish. To clean out the stuff my family and I have accumulated over the past 17 years and restore the pristine, minimalistic environment we enjoyed when we first moved in. To start rebuilding (and repairing) some of the most important relationships in my life and my career. These all take an enormous amount of time and effort --and patience.
Because, if I can somehow manage to circle the entire earth with just my two hands, two feet, and the help of a miraculous piece of machinery that I rarely think twice about, I can certainly manage to achieve other goals in my life, too.