When traveling with kids (or some adults), you’ll hear a repetitive chorus of, “Are we there yet?”
If you are the driver, you may choose to find that annoying.
However, put yourself in the position of the passenger-child for a moment. They have no control over where they are, and they probably have little information about what is to come. From their perspective, it’s just one endless boring kilometer after another. When will it ever end?
We go on many journeys throughout our lives; not all of them involve travelling. Some journeys involve career, education, marriage, house-building, child-raising. Other interests have destinations too, whether you want to become a master chef, woodworker, or more physically fit.
Any of those journeys can be long. They may have tedious dull sections interspersed with moments of panic, and they will likely include a few setbacks, U-turns, and some confusing directions.
Whenever we embark on a big goal, “Are we there yet?” is a worthwhile question. And while it may be clear that the answer is “No, not yet,” having a little information can make the experience more fun and satisfying for everyone involved in or touched by the journey.
Think about a scavenger hunt. Why is that fun? Part of the entertainment is that you get feedback as you go—you know that you are making progress as you find treasures along the way.
For a road trip, try choosing landmarks along the way that break the trip up into manageable chunks. Seeing and sharing checkpoints along the way provides feedback. When everyone sees the mastodon on the ridge, or the giant welcoming blueberry, or even a favourite rest area, they know where they are in relation to where they are going. Progress is happening!
Simply knowing that you are headed in the right direction and getting closer to your goal can be remarkably satisfying.
This idea of making and communicating incremental progress is helpful for all kinds of “journeys” in life. Most anything that has a goal can be broken into sub-goals. For example, do you have a long educational program stretching out in front of you? What are the big milestones? Completion of tests, courses, projects…
Make a checklist, and check things off as you complete them. First semester done? Check it off. There’s no need to micro-analyze (that is, don’t try avoiding your work by making elaborate checklists.) However, giving yourself feedback by checking off completed tasks can really help you stick with it and stay motivated.
There’s a big difference between having no clue about where you are on your journey versus knowing you’ve passed 5 of the 7 checkpoints and are making progress.
Whether you are on a journey by yourself or with others, communicating milestones can help replace the aggravation of, “Are we there yet?” with the motivation of, “We’re getting there!”
What kinds of journeys could you apply milestones to in your life?