The long game.
How to predictably succeed over the long term.
"Most people over-estimate what they can do in one year and under-estimate what they can do in ten years." -Derek Sivers
Our daily behaviors shape who we are. Or as Dr. Joe Dispenza puts it, our personal reality becomes our personality. Who we are and how we show up in the world is largely an amalgamation of these daily behaviors.
You've likely heard the quote from Aristotle that "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." So if we are ultimately a product of our habits, directing our energy toward defining and pursuing the right habits seems like a good place to start, right?
But in a world where everything can be acquired or accessed in an instant - groceries, books, information, social validation, etc. - we run the risk of losing the long game. Because habits don't form overnight. And they probably don't form in 21 days or whatever the latest headline states. Habits take time. A lot of it.
Fitness builds over months and years. Knowledge and skills too. Meditation is a practice measured in years and decades, not minutes and hours. And to continue down the overused phrases path, overnight successes are 20 years in the making.
This matters because most of us are playing the wrong game. We're playing the short game by trying to find the quickest path to something. I don't have to point out the 30 day weight loss programs, or diet pills, or life hacks, or insert any other thing we're bombarded with as a shortcut to a goal for you to understand the reality I'm pointing to. There are "influencers" on LinkedIn who make their income by teaching other people how to be influencers on LinkedIn. The long game = being so good they can't ignore you. The short game = hacking the algorithm. Both will get you to a destination, but only one has durability.
The long game is a breath of fresh air to me. For one, it feels inherently correct. Committing something to habit - the types of habits that change our personal reality and ultimately our personality - should require effort over a long arc of time. It is why they're valuable habits...because they're rare. And they're rare because the adoption of them falls off of a cliff after a relatively short amount of time.
There are two primary reasons why I think many of us fail at the long game. The first is what I pointed to above - the expectation that change moves quicker than it naturally wants to. And the second is that we bite off more than we can chew. Or to rearrange the quote this email started with, we dramatically overestimate what we can accomplish over a short arc of time while underestimating the long arc. Someone that's never worked out in their life shouldn't try to run 3 miles per day 5 days per week. That's playing the short game. Burnout. Injury. Self-sabotage. All likely outcomes when we try to squeeze a long game into a short one. But walking 5 days per week? That is the type of commitment that leads to longevity and continual improvement.
Move in the direction of your ultimate self. And make moving in that direction your norm.
Not perfection. Direction.
The monk, not the influencer.