Life's Instruction Manual

Tortoise-Style Goal Setting

Do not be impatient with your seemingly slow progress. Do not try to run faster than you presently can. If you are studying, reflecting and trying, you are making progress whether you are aware of it or not. A traveler walking the road in the darkness of night is still going forward. Someday, some way, everything will break open, like the natural unfolding of a rosebud.–Vernon Howard

I have a goal. Haven’t we all! I am not sure it is the right goal. In fact, this goal leads to a very scary dark place way outside my comfort zone. It is the top of a very steep mountain through a forbidden forest. I can see Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz skipping through her forest–lions, and tigers, and bears. Along the way, she meets the people she needs to help her to reach her goal–the Emerald City.

Seeing that, I know it is possible to make it through the dark scary place. Dorothy did it. And so have countless others.

I am not a skipper. I am a plodder. I take one step, and one step, and one step. In between, I wait. I listen for lions, and tigers, and bears. I can wait a long time–I am very patient–in case one is just out of ear-shot. I am also waiting for someone to tell me that I am on the right path. No one told me where my yellow brick road was. I chose the path. How do I know that it is the right one?

When I mentioned this to a friend, she suggested that she had a different approach. She just ran ahead. She figured she could course correct or fix any missteps along the way. It is an ask-for-forgiveness rather that permission approach to path finding or goal-setting. My approach is a wait for permission approach (That is probably a nod to our different upbringing. I had an ask-permission household and dreaded the punishment that came with asking for forgiveness).

I have reading and researching all the different ways to remake myself into an ask-forgiveness, correct mistakes kind of person. Seth Godin tells us to “Just ship it.” Brian Tracy says “Ready. Fire. Aim.” Robert Allen says “Everything we want is outside our comfort zone.” How about it is not the number of time you fall down, it is getting up one more time?

I understand all the theories. Successful people fail more. My approach is more of a failure avoidance approach. My approach I must admit is much slower. Is it wrong? It is wrong if it doesn’t help me reach my goal. If I reach my goal, however slowly, isn’t that the approach that suggests that journey is more important than the destination. If I am taking more time along the way, is it not possible for me to enjoy the journey more?


I have had to change two perspectives to allow this approach to work.

First is the enjoying the journey part. It is easy to get anxious and worried that I am not on the right path. I have had to relax and enjoy the slow pace. I remind myself that walking is an effective mode of transportation. The key is to be always moving forward. One step at a time. One step. One step. One step.

Second is to remember that I am an adult and permission is not coming from anyone. I do believe in a higher power that is directing the weaving of the tapestry of the world with all the threads crossing over and knotted on the messy side of life. On the God side of the work, it is beautiful. With these two things in mind, I have decided that as long as I don’t hear a “no, don’t go that way.” I have been given permission to go forward. One step. Look around. Enjoy the perspective. Listen for objections.  And take the next step.

So far, it is working. I am taking steps towards my goal, at a tortoise pace. I am enjoying the place where I am. I am stretching my comfort zone rather than breaking it.