Slow moving goals are hard to celebrate. It’s easy for a small store to add up the cash at the end of the day and see how much money they made. When you’re selling to other businesses and the process takes a long time, it’s easy to lose perspective and miss the opportunity to see the progress on your journey.
Here is what selling our product to a new customer looks like:
It starts with a phone call; someone is interested in our product. Several weeks later, we have an initial meeting, followed by a meeting with more people, followed by them wanting to think about it for a while. After all this, they start evaluating our product. Several weeks later, they decide they really like it and want to buy it. The business negotiations start: Arms are thrown up in the air, phone calls are not returned, people turn coy. After intense wrestling, a deal is struck and then the licensing agreement is reviewed; lawyers bicker on the terms, but we finally get it signed off. They finally send us the Purchase Order, we send them the software. We get paid 30-45 days later. The entire process from phone call to cash can take as much as 6 months.
Somewhere in the process above, we are pretty sure that we will succeed. This feels like a goal has been accomplished, but it’s still not done until we receive the purchase order (PO). Things can always fall apart even when they seem very positive. By the time we actually get the PO, we have started in on a new set of goals. The result is that it makes it very difficult to celebrate a goal achieved and can even make the accomplishment feel anticlimactic because success was expected well before it was finished.
Many goals worth doing are like this. They take a very long time to achieve and it’s hard to measure progress. The only way to deal with this is to force yourself to remember where you were 6 or more months ago. This helps you keep the objectives in perspective. It helps you remember back before success was expected. It helps you remember to celebrate in both the journey and the destination.
Matthew, you have articulated what I consider one of the biggest misconceptions about the usefulness of goals, that at their end you will feel better having accomplished them. The version you describe is true of a lot of goals, that the end is rarely as clear and hoisting the astronauts out of the capsule (or the miners out of the mine). I think we need to remember to celebrate more frequently the small moments of focus and accomplishment, and save the acknowledgement of larger accomplishments for moments when we can also reflect on the process and how we want to adjust our sites for the future. Otherwise, like you describe, when there is no climactic moment, the actual accomplishment of a big goal feels, at least in my experience, lonely.