Turn your long-term goals into a scavenger hunt

Most of us are treasure hunting without a map. Here’s how to bring a sense of play to your progress.

If you’ve received one piece of financial advice in your life, it’s likely this: small, consistent investments add up big over time. You’ve probably also heard that more people play the lottery than save for retirement.

The same is true of long-term goals; our incremental gains accrue like interest. But, like saving for retirement, the very thing that makes compound interest so effective is what makes it hard to appreciate: it’s difficult to conceptualize our day-to-day progress, and it doesn’t trigger the immediate serotonin boost of say, hitting the “jackpot.”

The result? While the effectiveness of 1% gains is proven, most of us aren’t tracking or appreciating our small deposits. Instead, we often set big goals, only to get demoralized when we can’t accomplish them all at once.

If we hit a goal in a forest, and no one is around to notice…

Do we still achieve our OKRs? Possibly, but if we do, we may not be able to repeat our results — and if we don’t, it’s tough to identify where we went off track. Perhaps most importantly, when we don’t take time to notice micro-achievements, we steal joy from ourselves in our pursuit of progress.

You know the saying, “it doesn’t get easier, you just get better”? Technically, it’s true: in any job that appropriately challenges us, as our skills increase, so does the complexity of our tasks.

But, if we’re being honest, that kinda stinks, right? It means that what made us feel accomplished yesterday seems trivial today, and we never fully see the fruits of our labor while we’re doing the work.

So, how can we take time to check in on our progress without micromanaging ourselves? And how can we appreciate the tiny, “unsexy” milestones as much as we do the big ones?

Create your own scavenger hunt

The joy of a scavenger hunt is that making it to the next challenge is its own reward — finding the next clue is just as exciting as finding the treasure.

Next time you look at your big quarterly goal, imagine those small to-dos are a breadcrumb trail: a treasure map drawing you closer to the objective via tangible tasks and results that are satisfying to achieve in and of themselves.

It might mean restructuring your task list, or it might be as simple as reframing it; coming up with fun names for meetings and project roles and devising offbeat rewards for yourself and your team. You might have to get creative — actually, we’re sure you will.

Speechless is an organization that uses Improv Thinking to help people be themselves and be heard. Visit https://www.speechlessinc.com/ for more info.

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