One of the greatest follies I've taken time to recognize lately is that I've kept my mind's eye on the wrong thing for many years now.
I was affected by this article that asserts we need to focus on our day-to-day habits rather than our distance to concrete endpoints in order to be truly successful, as its the individual steps we take daily that are far more important.
Still yet, after some months of mulling it over it has sunk in that there's an even deeper wisdom to this. It's not only practical to be more focused on daily habit rather than ends, but perhaps necessary in sustaining motivation in all of one's life. Learning to measure the right thing and love those measurements may be just what will give us the strength to endure any hardship imaginable.
For example, I've already stated previously that I've struggled in the culinary industry. I've been in it for about four years now, and yet still subsist on the bottom of the ladder, dishwasher, and oftentimes due to the fact employers tend to overvalue their competent dishwashers, preferring to keep them there no matter how worthy of being promoted they are. This has led to a rather significant crash in my ambition and motivation, for in focusing so much on my desire to make it to a position in prep or on the line, I've emotionally burned out in not making any progress towards that end, and have become jaded about the industry.
It's true that irrational employers can keep us from rationally expected rewards such as promotion, but it's how I've reacted to it that's caused the plunge in motivation, not the situation in itself. What's wrong is that I've focused on entirely the wrong thing.
Instead, I should have – and will, from now on – keep my focus hotly on the individual habits I can measure at work, such as stopwatch timing how fast I can close a station, do some prep, or take the trash out. Overtime, through habituation, I would have learned to primarily love these measurements and drive my life at constantly maintaining my records or besting them, which would be my daily evidence that I am, in fact, making progress in my life, not moving backwards or stagnating.
This is important for multiple reasons.
For one, given the above linked article's content, it's important to train the mind to pay the most attention to and consider most important the individual steps in a journey, not the destination. It's the individual steps that get you there, so we must all be utmost concerned with them. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, it's not wise to make it a goal to lose such-and-such number of pounds, but rather consider what daily tweaks you'll make to your diet, exercise, and other health regiments, and the such-and-such pounds lost will naturally follow. Or in writing a book, the goal shouldn't be to get the book published in paperback, but rather to dedicate to so many words written, edited, and so on per day, and the book will naturally get written by that means.
For two, I think it's also important to focus like since it essentially makes our goals near-indestructible by placing them entirely under our control, not subject to anyone's irrationality. That is especially important: Make the factors you measure something that's entirely within your control, NOT something that is dependent on someone else to act on.
In my culinary example, my folly was in constructing my goal so that its very final step, the actual promotion, is totally dependent on another person to complete, my boss. If that boss should happen to be irrational and will not offer just rewards, then my goal becomes practically impossible and achievable in that circumstance, therefore wreaking all sorts of habit on motivation and ambition.
On the other hand, if I trained myself to be solely concerned in measuring my self-improvement in the individual tasks from day-to-day, and ONLY worrying about that, then it becomes immaterial whether or not I'm being unjustly overlooked for promotion. The true goal is to get better; not to advance my career dependent on someone else's professional decisions.
Of course, it will take some cultivated serenity to make do with being satisfied with one's measured habit in the face of injustice, such as seeing countless people promoted above you while you remain behind, but that kind of serenity held in the long-run will ensure that your abilities will never go to rot; you'll always improve regardless, and once the opportunity to advance does come, you'll have the substance in your ability to back up your worth.
In other words, learning to become healthfully obsessed with ones habits is a good way to prevent the spirit from becoming spoiled, and of letting one's abilities and good character go into decline due to disenchantment. When an employer treats us unjustly, it can be tough to continue giving him your best, but you must learn to do it somehow, for your abilities aren't something you can put into your pocket to be kept preserved for the right opportunity; if bitterness sets in and one holds back, then the abilities might have degraded too much by the time the wanted opportunity actually comes around.
It'll take a feat a creativity to figure out how to restructure one's habit thinking so as to focus more on measuring the day-to-day steps rather than the ultimate end-point, but it's easy enough to do given enough time to think about it, especially in experimenting, having failed experiments, and using learning from those failures to try out better methods.
Though, I also recommend you take a gander at my original article about using a stopwatch, not just because a stopwatch is a great measuring tool for so many things, but also that pitfalls in measurements need to be taken into consideration, otherwise some frustrating and silly results could occur.
For example, when I first started using a stopwatch, I used to be so attached to maintaining my records that I would actually freeze in place if someone shut my stopwatch off, and wouldn't move until after I've successfully begged them to turn it back on. (Lesson: Always keep your stopwatch on you, away from the hands of the curious.) Or, in other considerations, I used to get immensely frustrated if people would help me with some tasks, such as cleaning, as my measured scores only counted if I completed the task by myself. (Lesson: In your score documentation, always consider multiple variations of measuring the same tasks, so you can be prepared to measure things such as doing something solo or with assistance.)
By nailing down a successful way to be focused only on day-to-day habits, nobody can tell you you're not making progress in your life simply because you haven't been promoted, had that book published, or so on. Not when you've got the concrete measurements to prove them wrong.