The Magic of Milestones.

13 Mar 2017

It's 4.15am. The boiler has kicked in. It always does before the alarm goes off. Don't really know why we bother with the alarm because I awake with the boiler. It's Sunday morning. Nobody should have to get up at 4.15am on a Sunday morning...

There's something magical about the psychology of performance and the motivation that milestones bring. There's a sense of movement, bearing, direction, and progress when we have a clear milestone to reach. I'm not big into goals, like most personal development presenters are, but I am into milestones - those waypoints on the journey.

Birthday's are milestones for the vast majority of us. Nature offers her own milestones - the circuit of the Earth around the Sun each year - giving us the seasons, the circuit of Moon around the Earth each month, the circuit of the Sun around the Globe each day - giving us the clear markers of dawn, midday, and dusk.

Then come the invented Milestones: the days of the week, our goals, and the alarm going off at 4.15am on a Sunday morning.

Invented Milestones need something added to them to give them credibility. They need a "Why".

I know that my Dad, in retirement, can lose the rhythm of the week. My Mum is similar. So, Sunday lunch with my sister or down the pub can help create a Milestone. Others might choose Church, or a weekly appointment on the same day with the hairdresser. All these things are good for us.

Let me share, in her own words, the trouble with Alice in Wonderland...

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"

"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.

"I don't much care where–" said Alice.

"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.

"–so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.

"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

Like too many others, I have experienced Alice's dilemma. I remember inventing some milestones: a certain number of views on Flickr was one. It didn't mean anything on the grand scale of things, I just found it interesting, and therefore motivating. Fascinatingly, the journey was very engaging but once I hit the target, I completely lost interest and motivation. Like Alice, I had invented the Anti-Milestone - the void.

Milestones - Natural and invented - help us. They give us a sense of Overview, Structure, and Control. They give us a rhythm to life, perhaps even being a part of The Rhythm of Life. When I stopped setting milestones, I lost interest in life.

Therefore, set milestones!

...and assign a "why" to them. Our alarm goes off at 4.15am on a Sunday because Lady Penelope works on Sunday. Working early means she finishes early, so she is able to weave this benefit into the story she tells herself about why this is worth it! It's too early but it still has value because it is a milestone set on purpose.

What new meaningful milestones could you set for yourself?


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Mary Wednesday

March 13, 2017, 7:43 a.m.

Great blog. I am going to have to think about this. After I have swum and meditated I might come back with those thoughts.....



March 13, 2017, 7:50 a.m.

Sounds like a couple of milestones right there, Mary - swimming and meditating! I look forward to your insights...


March 13, 2017, 8:25 a.m.

Interesting blog, Lex. Thank you. It requires some reflection on my part. I believe that the path is often as, or more, important than arriving. But of course that depends on what it is for. If you are planning a holiday and do all the research, book the tickets etc, but then don't actually go, then the whole process was probably a bit of a waste of time. Except that you probably got some pleasure and excitement from the planning and looking forward to the trip. I have taken to naked running. Now don't worry - I'm not the park flasher! This means running without a garmin or similar running watch. I am running purely for the joy of being out and breathing deeply of the fresh air. I'm not running to beat my record, or even get faster than yesterday. I'm just out scampering with the squirrels and birdies, giving out cheery 'good morning's to dog walkers. And I get to feel smug all day. maybe that is my goal?



March 13, 2017, 9:38 a.m.

Hi Susannah, this naked running sounds wonderful! You're certainly getting a positive outcome! As for the path being more important than arriving... I couldn't agree more. Let's hope everyone reading today will enjoy the journey.


March 13, 2017, 8:36 a.m.

Hi Lex, the three words that I noted in my journal are Overview, structure & control. I do follow a routine or a daily ritual & if I now break it I feel discombobulated. It brings a smile to my lips because the younger me hated any routine I used to consider 'Boring'. As ever, I enjoyed reading your blog.



March 13, 2017, 9:40 a.m.

Coming to maturity is an amazing process, isn't it, Orangeblossom. I, too, now understand the value in that which used to be boring. "Discombobulated" - what a gorgeous word to take upon one's lips - it's like a babbling brook giggling in the Spring sunshine!

Hopeful One

March 13, 2017, 8:50 a.m.

Hi Lex- a thought provoking blog. When a milestone feels too far one can break the journey into micro milestones otherwise called our day. One moves from one micro milestone to the next . In the process something interesting happens . The mind seems to stay in the present and not wander into the past or the future the source of much of our angst . And one can have a laugh as one goes through the micomilestones and the mind gets supplied with a regular dose of the endorphins. A man calls a lawyer's office. The phone is answered, "Schwartz, Schwartz, Schwartz and Schwartz." The man says, "Let me talk to Mr. Schwartz." "I'm sorry, he's on vacation." "Then let me talk to Mr. Schwartz." "He's on a big case, not available for a week." "Then let me talk to Mr. Schwartz." "He's playing golf today." "Okay, then, let me talk to Mr. Schwartz." "Speaking."



March 13, 2017, 9:33 a.m.

Love the joke... and relish in micro milestones - especially when the going gets tough. I do like the idea of them helping us to stay focused in the present too. Thank you, Hopeful One


March 13, 2017, 10:10 a.m.

Lex What a fascinating blog. Next year I have a birthday milestone or society and family see it as one. Why because a birthday ends in a 0 does it have to mean a big deal. A birthday means one day over. Is it a milestone to have lived a certain number of years maybe 100 or 90 is a big deal but to simply be alive for a lesser amount. I think having my first baby and becoming a parent was a milestone and after my parents were dead I was a an adult orphan and that was another milestone. Thanks again.***



March 13, 2017, 12:44 p.m.

Hi Leah, that's a major set of milestones you've shared there - some not of your own choosing. Have you got some milestones that you'd actually like to set of your own choosing? Something to look forward to? Sounds like you have mixed feelings about the big birthday!

The Gardener

March 13, 2017, 11:07 a.m.

Thanks Lex, thought-provoking, as ever. Leah - even if you don't see birthdays with an '0' as significant then others will. In our family, all birthdays always mattered - because it might be the only day YOU mattered, and due reference was made to it. I like Mondays - the 'fresh' start. Week-ends are currently dire, go to mass, out to lunch, and that's it. Mr G has become too anti-social to go visiting. But during the week-end I prepare all the things to do for Monday on my desk - a pile-up today - all done at a run because furniture being installed in two rooms - house full of the noise of drills - all in preparation for the hopeful installation of an 'au pair' to thin down Mr G when I don't have professionals. Like to use this space to thank Molly (last post to my blog yesterday). She talked about being 'scared' in my position. Daren't let myself - but, always there is 'trepidation' because the future is uncertain on so many fronts. Sundays USED to be milestones - church, Sunday lunch, visiting rellies, whether you liked it or not. Now, Sunday in the Caribbean is something else - I love it - all the coloured people in best clothes, churches full, heartfelt singing. 'An Island Parish' was done in Anguilla, brought back happy memories



March 13, 2017, 12:49 p.m.

Hi Gardener... agree with you on your point about Leah's birthday - others do see those birthdays as so significant. Loving the sound of Sunday in the Caribbean...


March 13, 2017, 12:14 p.m.

Hello Lex. I like the notion of milestones as you often reach one without having planned for it whereas with goals, they hang over you with a sense of failure if you don't reach them. You can suddenly think oh that was a milestone in my life. When you look back over your life, you can see milestones but rarely can we see events as goals which we have set ourselves and reached. Well I can't anyway. I'm not sure about setting a milestone though. Jules xx



March 13, 2017, 12:52 p.m.

Hi Jules, I think we are agreed - milestones are far less intimidating than goals (the latter being often something that does attract a sense of failure - as you said.) As for setting them, it's like setting a waypoint on a welcome journey. Perhaps there's somewhere you'd like to get to this year and, if so, there would be some points along that journey that would reassure you that you are successfully en route??? xx


March 13, 2017, 2:09 p.m.

Yes that's a good suggestion.I'll think about that. I can already think of one in relation to someone I am adopting a different approach to after many years of giving in so to speak. It will be a long process as I have to be subtle in my new approach. Thank you. Jules xx


March 13, 2017, 7:29 p.m.

Hi Lex. I agree with your comments and often set myself these goals. However my son, who has anxiety and mild depression, has taken this to a new level and almost succeeded in turning it into something not so great. He will refuse to do or work on something UNTIL another goal is met. Eg. I'm not going to start studying UNTIL my room is tidy. I'm not going to look at my maths exam revision UNTIL my chemistry exam is over. I'm not going to see x friend UNTIL my car is tidy. You get the idea. The difficulty comes when the first condition is never realised. We are both a work in progress :)



March 13, 2017, 9:18 p.m.

Hi Hanna, I think we are all a work in progress... Not sure yet what to suggest with your son though. He's doing a serial process - A then B then C, whereas life is parallel. I shall sleep on this!


March 14, 2017, 7:33 p.m.

Hi Lex, Wonderful blog!"Milestones - Natural and invented - help us. They give us a sense of Overview, Structure, and Control. They give us a rhythm to life, perhaps even being a part of The Rhythm of Life. When I stopped setting milestones, I lost interest in life. Therefore, set milestones!" It seems for a great part of life I may have been operating down that rabbit hole. While in the work world I would create "To Do Lists" for structure and control but rarely gave much consideration of an overview. I still do this in retirement but not as routinely as when I worked. Your blog brings an awakening for me in understanding how important it is for me to have rhythm in my days. The "Overview for me is the "Why" that I seem to glimpse at as I pass through my day. I'm learning to enjoy the flowers and the journey(Why)more these days and give more appreciation to the process. Thanks for the Aha!


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