I had a conversation this weekend with my son who is currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Guyana in the Amazon rain forest. He lives in a small village in the north of the country and works at the only health clinic serving the mining villages in the area. After having worked through high school and college at a fairly rigorous pace with a pre-med focus, life was fairly structured for my Eagle Scout son. He decided he wanted a “life experience” before going to medical school, so the Peace Corps was his choice.
After 5 months in country, he is struggling with a life that is so different from what he knows – a different culture with different values. The Peace Corps has “very vague” guidelines of what he is supposed to do and he is just generally wondering what the heck he is doing some or most days. However, after a recent trip to the city of Georgetown and the Peace Corp offices, he happened upon a book by a famous mountain climber who also happened to have been a Peace Corp Volunteer. He started reading and found a passage that essentially said while this guy was climbing in situations that most of us wouldn’t even dream of, and wanting to give up, he discovered that focusing on the moment was the only way he could make it through. If he thought about the next two days or the next 5000 feet, he would deem it impossible. If he thought about the moment he was in, the next few minutes or hours, he knew he could do that. So he stopped focusing on the goal and instead concentrated on the moment right in front of him. And that’s how he scaled the mountains.
My son decided it was exactly the prescription for him. Instead of thinking about how in the world he would make it for another two years and what he was supposed to accomplish in that time, he decided to focus on one day at a time. He can deal with each day and make the best of it instead of focusing on the “two more years and I must achieve something” in the back of his mind. He found it much easier to go with the flow and actually enjoy each moment.
The reason I share this story is that in business, we often face such monumental tasks, challenges, competitors, and insurmountable objects that we feel like quitting. So rather than focus on how long it might take to get something done, the impossibility of the task, the enormity of the stakes or project at hand, perhaps the answer is to just focus on today, this moment, and what you are doing right now. If we look back at our lives, we know we can and have made it though many, many difficult moments. And we made it through, one moment at a time to achieve the goal or task and get to where we are today.