Why do so many of us fail to reach long-term goals? Because succeeding at a long-term proposition or meaningful life change is a process, not an event.
Seth Godin's excellent blog addressed this in a post last month, although he looked at it from a business standpoint. Although many companies are jumping into social networking, many are failing, because their cultures are event-oriented---go to a trade show, make the sales pitch, close the deal. This means they have a hard time with a Twitter mentality, because it involves many small, consistent efforts that evolve over time, based on a give and take relationship with customers. Writes Seth, "Dating is a process, as is losing weight and raising capital and taking a company public."
Events are fun, process is not. Events involve choosing the dessert for the reception, driving the shiny car off the lot, celebrating the promotion. Process is about lacing up your running shoes even if it's raining, saying no to the dessert, agreeing to be set up on yet another potentially horrible date. Events have an immediate thrill, becuase they usually involve spending money. If you're a savvy purchaser, you typically know what you are getting. In contrast, process takes a long time and the payoff is frequently in question. And, important for people like me, being immersed in process often gives me the panicked feeling that I am, God forbid, wasting time.
This is why we like to shop more than we like to date, why we would rather watch the game than go to the gym at six in the morning. We don't want to keep going out for dinner and telling strangers our life story, we just want to open our front door and find the love of our life standing there. We do the cauliflower diet or the protein diet or the vitamin purge because we don't want to live our lives without pecan pie and cheeseburgers. Leave the Zen patience and long path towards enlightenment to the Buddhist monks; we're not getting any younger.
The problem is that our way usually means we don't reach our goals, and we frequently feel unfulfilled once the kick of immediate gratification wears off. Maybe the trick is to accept that it's going to be a long, slow trip, and use our energy towards taking one more of those thousand steps. I guess this means I'll have to go on a few more dates. But first I need some new shoes.