Short-term Obstacles

Gerwig 2015-03-20

Have you ever made a big move? I’m talking about the kind where you pack your belongings and move across country. Where you change jobs, friends, schools, and time zones. Where you give up the known for the unknown. Where you change neighborhoods. Where you go from being a “senior” to being a “freshman” because you’re in unfamiliar territory. You’re kinda starting over. That kind of move.

During my lifetime, I’ve experienced several such moves. From California to West Virginia, from North Carolina to Guam, from West Virginia to New Jersey, from Tennessee to Arizona, from the Philippines to Kentucky, from New Jersey to Colorado, etc. Yes, I’ve made some big moves. Some of the moves occurred while I was a kid, the son of a career US Marine Corps officer (Semper Fi). And some of the moves occurred during my adulthood, the result of job changes.

In every case, it’s been an adventure. There are things that I’m excited about seeing in the new location. And things I’m sad to be leaving. It’s fun to see new things, meet new friends, and experience new places. But it’s sad to leave familiar places and long-time friends. One thing I learned early on is that it helps to focus on the end-state, the goal or target, and not short-term obstacles or difficulties. True, it’s critically important to count the cost and know what needs to be done in the short-term, but to exclusively focus on short-term obstacles leads to inaction and disappointment.

It’s a much better strategy to focus on the future, the ideal state or the goal while executing the necessary, if difficult, short-term actions. Overcoming these obstacles is necessary to reach the end-state, while keeping focused on where you’re headed. Keep your head up and focused on the target.

When you make a major move, there are literally hundreds of details that need addressed. Here are a few key ones:

  • Pack your goods
  • Ship your household goods
  • Sell your house
  • Find a house in the new location
  • Buy the new house
  • Drive or ship your cars to the new location
  • Change schools
  • Find a new church
  • Tell old friends good-bye
  • Register car in the new location, get new driver’s license, get new car title

I could go on and on and on. This list is by no means exhaustive and each of these “actions” or details has scores of minor actions behind them. For example, to find and buy a new house can be broken into scores of more granular actions each of which represent an obstacle of sorts. And each obstacle must be overcome to reach the end-state, the goal.
Moving is hard work. It requires a “ton” of actions to be completed. But in order to stay motivated, you need to keep your attention focused on the goal, otherwise you’ll get distracted and discouraged. You’ll lose momentum. You will put the goal at risk. Instead, think about how nice the new location will be. How great the adventure will be. How many new friends you’ll meet. How great your new church will be. How good it will feel to get all the hard work of moving put behind so you can put your feet up for a bit.

To the extent that you keep your focus on the benefits of the end-state, the more likely you’ll be at completing the necessary actions and removing critical-path-impeding obstacles.

You have your own story, your own examples. Going back to graduate school? Focus on graduation and what the diploma will enable you to do. Don’t focus on all the work, the exams and papers needed to graduate. Yes, be open-minded and “count the cost” so you’re not blind-sided or surprised, but don’t obsess with the short-term obstacles once you’ve establish your goal and created an action plan. At that point, it’s time to remain focused (on the goal) and execute (the action plan). Focus and execute. That’s all you need to reach your goal. Don’t get lost in the weeds. Don’t lose sight of the goal. Don’t focus on the wall. Focus on what’s beyond the wall.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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