Do You Have the Patience for "Slow Goals"?




After college, I was offered a job in Quebec City at a local television station. I remember my time in La Belle Province fondly, but I never really took the time to understand the history while I was there. I recall at some point asking a colleague in passing if there was a book that they could recommend for me to learn about Quebec’s past. The chat immediately slipped my mind, but not my colleague’s. On my last day of work, my co-workers gave me a copy of Canada – Quebec: 1534 – 2000. It was 600-page tome IN FRENCH that gives a historical overview of Quebec from its founding to present day. (This was 2005.) I was so excited! It was exactly what I was looking for!


And then guess what, I packed it in my suitcase. Lugged it back to the US, and it traveled unread from bookshelf to bookshelf for the last 15 years.


Occasionally, I would glance at the book on my shelf and say, “Ok, when I finish the book I’m reading, I’ll start that book.” But I was so intimidated by the length and the weeks and weeks of my already limited reading time that I would have to dedicate to completing it that I kept putting it off.


In January of this year, I decided it was time to tackle this beast. I did a little math and figured out that if I read just two pages a day before bed each night, I could complete it by the end of the year.


It still felt daunting, but I just took it one day at a time and tried not to think about the whole thing. There were evenings when I was too tired or didn’t feel like it. There were other nights when I pushed through five or six pages. (Did I mention it is in French? Academic French?)


Bit by bit, I watched my bookmark move farther and farther back. On November 1 (two months early!!) I reached the end. I’m sure there is a lot I missed or didn’t understand. I admittedly skimmed over some of the details about economics. But I got through it and picked up a few interesting facts along the way.


For instance: I remember learning about the patriots who won the revolutionary war, but it never crossed my mind what became of the loyalists, who had also settled in the New World but were against independence. After the war, they suddenly felt understandably awkward and unwelcome in the Boston area, so they fled to Canada settling in Quebec (and New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and other areas of eastern Canada.)


In addition to the historical knowledge, I discovered that I still have what it takes to set “slow” goals, which force you to pick away at them with patience and dedication. Slow goals are like a marathon compared to a sprint. IF you got to fast your burn out and can’t finish.


We are becoming a culture intolerant of delayed gratification. We want everything now. Our TV shows bingeable. Our packages next-day or same-day. We are losing our collective attention span, and we expect projects to get done ASAP.


I’m not immune to this. I often find myself avoiding and giving up on things that will take more than a week or a month to accomplish. Or what about the things that are a “work in progress” and never end. So help me! (Blog Post: “Stop Trying To be Done”)

But this was different for me. This had a clear finish line. I knew if I could just keep going, there was an end.

Here are few other reasons why I think this challenge worked for me. Feel free to use these as guidelines for your own “slow” goal challenge.

  • It was challenging but not impossible. I had all the tools I needed to do it.

  • I scheduled it into my daily routine, so I didn’t need to think about when I would get it done. It just became a habit.

  • I didn’t get hung up on meeting my goal every day. I set such a small daily goal that when I missed a day, it was easy to catch up. I factored missed days into the year-long calculation.

  • I broke it down into monthly goals, usually 50 pages a month. This gave me milestones to look forward to.

  • I told people what I was doing. You don’t have to do this, but I know when I let people know I’m attempting something, I’m less inclined to give up.


If a 600-page history book in a foreign language sounds like a huge leap. Try a smaller slow goal. For example:


  • Cook a meal that takes all day. Try Timpano!!

  • Do a craft that requires a lot of steps.

  • Organize your basement by working at it 2 hours each weekend.

The New Year can be a great time to reflect on goals and purpose. What’s a slow goal you to start on January 1. If you need an accountability partner to help you with it. Give me a call!