To keep your eye on the prize is difficult because the prize is in the future. You live in the present. When things get tough in the now, you can’t jump to the later where you’ve achieved your dreams and live happily ever after.

You can retreat there mentally for comfort, but that place is not reality. Reality is now. Reality is present. Reality is where you must, against all difficulties, persist and get what you want.

The problem is that success isn’t linear. Human beings naturally think in terms of linear relationships and thus have great difficulty seeing the world any other way. It’s easy for you to understand, “If doing X gets you Y, then do more of X if you want more Y. Or do less of X if you want less Y”. Most of the time this intuition works for most things, but when it fails we are lost.

Sometimes the solution is to do less. Sometimes it’s to do more. Sometimes it’s to do a thing differently. Sometimes it’s to do nothing at all. Each situation is different. It often a game of trial and error, but if you want something then you will figure out the best course of action.

Figuring out what needs to be done is not the same as putting more effort into it. It can be, but often it’s not. See, you started your journey with a goal in mind. I don’t know your goal and I don’t know what you’ve gone through so far to get to it, but I know that it must be important to you. If it weren’t important, then your spirits wouldn’t be down about a setback.

You view the setback as an obstacle be plowed through; as something to put more energy towards so that you can continue progressing. But it keeps knocking you on your ass. Why is that?

You forgot that the most important part of having a goal isn’t the goal. I don’t know what you want. What I do know is that you’re still on the journey because you don’t have it.  Everything that gets in your way and disrupts your linear expectations of the world is there because you have something to learn. The real value of the goal is the person it forces you to become in order to attain it.

Consider the following: Everyone wants more money. We believe that if we won the lottery, all of our troubles would cease. But history has shown us what happens to many lottery winners. Without any change in character or mindset, their new found freedom is short lived and they soon again become slaves.

The money is wasted and many end up in greater debt than before. The worst parts of their character are given free-reign to destabilize their entire livelihood. This is because they did not do the work to make themselves worthy of such a financial prize, and so instead of blessing it brought ruin.

Your goals are like this, but there is nothing like the lottery for most of our desires. We can’t enter a raffle to become a pro-athlete, a best-selling author, a business owner, have a beautiful partner, a great physique, etc. These things require real effort and trials which result in several errors before we see the promised land.

You learn a lot during journey towards your goals. Some of this learning comes from the advice given from those that came before you, but a great deal of it will come the hard way. When you learn the hard way, progress seems to stop. Learning the hard way is painful and damaging, but so is heavy lifting.

Just like the in the days following a heavy lift, you are weak. You are immobile. It hurts to even try. But the only way to grow stronger is to endure this pain and temporary weakness. The only way to truly make progress is to overcome that which appears to halt your journey.

My choice of verb was not accidental. It only appears to halt your journey the same way a plateau appears to halt your progress. The frustration you feel is the betrayal of your linear expectations. Just because your exterior world is not changing for the better (or changing at all) does not mean that improvement isn’t happening. Just because it appears that your progress is halted does not mean it actually is. You are getting closer, whether you can see it or not.

When you disconnect from this linear expectation, then you can appreciate plateaus and setbacks. As a child, you didn’t expect linear progression. When you started walking, you knew you’d stumble a few times. When you started reading, you understood that you’d encounter words you didn’t know. Even a kid playing video games understands that you have to die a few times before you figure out how to beat the level. It’s only as adults do we become entitled and expect things to go perfectly.

Never forget why you started the journey in the first place. You started this because you want something that you currently don’t have. Now that you understand that the path to it sometimes appears to be no path at all, you can stop focusing so much on the path. Or if you need to, now you can redefine the path. The only path that matters is the path of intention.

Your intention doesn’t care about how much the exterior world is changing. It only cares about what it learns and how much closer it gets to what you want. The path of accomplishment is deceiving the same way that winning a million dollars is. The real thing, the mind and vessel of accomplishment, has not changed. There was no intent to win that money so there was no lesson learned on what to do with it.

Intention is will that’s forged by setback. Intention is the anti-fragile part of you that grows stronger after attack. Intention is what will allow you to see that everything is moving you towards the goal. Intention makes you stop judging yourself by external progress, which can be deceiving, and instead focus on your preparation to possess your goal. Any fool can follow a path when its easy and clear, but only one with steel intention can weather the storm and navigate blind.