We’ve all heard the proverb that goes, “the hunter who chases two rabbits will catch neither one.” (or something like that) The implied lesson is to focus your attention on a single goal at a time. Spreading yourself too thin will, at best, lead to mediocre results on both frontiers and, at worst, the failure to reach either goal.
Although my tendency is to try not to focus on the results of my pursuits but rather on the process, I think there’s a lot of wisdom behind this proverb.
Most of us set goals for ourselves. A certain number of pounds to lose, a promotion, recognition from our peers, whatever. Settings goals is an important practice because it gives us something to work towards. It’s much easier to run a set number of laps than run for an undefined period of time. Mentally, we check off – halfway there, only ten more, five more, two more, one more, DONE! Reaching these mental milestones gives us both a burst of energy and a bit of relief. We simultaneously accomplish part of the task and put it behind us.
Setting goals also serves the important purpose of making your dreams tangible and, if you practice proper goal setting, manageable. I want to become a famous rapper becomes, I want to write rhymes for an hour everyday. Writing rhymes becomes writing songs, recording them, doing shows, networking, maybe putting videos out on the internet. Creating finish lines for ourselves as we progress towards “Becoming Batman” lets us track our progress and keeps us motivated. However, setting goals is a double edged sword.
If you are overzealous and pursue the completion of too many different things, you run the risk of being overwhelmed. This is a mistake that I’ve made many times. The easiest example can be shown through the training routines that I create for myself. I have to balance my sport-specific training with my supplementary training and rest. I wanted to cover all my bases so I started lifting and doing conditioning work three days a week on top of training five days a week. It was too much. My performance declined during practices and during my supplementary sessions. As if that wasn’t enough, I began to struggle in my college classes because I didn’t have enough time to study. I ended up cutting all the lifting sessions out and reducing conditioning to just twice each week. It took a couple weeks but I was able to bounce back to normal.
Repeated instances of “biting off more than I could chew” taught me what this proverb is trying to convey. You can’t do everything at once. What if you were studying for three tests. You study Calculus for thirty minutes, History for another thirty minutes, and then Chemistry for a final thirty minutes.By the time you get back to studying Calculus, you’ve lost most of what you learned in the first place.
There is a finite load that can be taken on at a time. Taking the time to reduce your goal to its bare-bones might seem tedious or, if you’re like me, a waste of an opportunity to improve yourself in multiple ways at once. In reality, hitting one goal at a time is probably better for your progress in the long run. Focusing solely on the completion of a single goal makes you are more likely to achieve it. Continually achieving goals builds positive momentum that makes it easier to go on to achieving the subsequent goals that you set. This positive momentum and boost in morale are essential to consistently progressing down whichever path that you have chosen.
So if you’re somebody who’s been trying to do everything at once. Cut back. Give yourself some slack. You’ll enjoy the process more and be more likely to reach the finish line.
Until next time,