The Secret of Perfect Timing

When is the right time to achieve a goal?

It is no surprise that the ‘when’ question in The Right Questions refers to time. Timing is critical, as time is the one truly limited resource, but selecting the right time to do something is not straightforward. Good timing makes the difference between success and failure but ideal timing is hard to achieve. It takes an equal measure of planning and wisdom to know when to implement strategies, to go for goals and ultimately achieve a mission.  

Therefore we have to answer:

  • What are we going to invest our time in?
  • How much of our time should we invest?
  • When is the best time to do so?

Knowing when to move and how much time to invest in something is the secret of perfect timing.

“You may delay, but time will not.”

Benjamin Franklin

What should you spend your time doing?

Knowing what to spend your time on is a matter of prioritisation. You have to know what is the most important thing to do. To do that you have to understand why you even want to do something in the first place. If you are unsure then I recommend you read the following post on finding your values.

Once that you know why you are wanting to do something you can confirm what is the best thing to do. It may be that you already have a goal in mind.

Application of time: the discipline of practice

We would all like quick success but our biggest dreams will take considerable time and a lot of hard work to achieve. One wise person once told me that people overestimate what they can achieve in one year and underestimate what they can achieve in five or ten years. I have found this to be true.

Don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of applied time. Investors understand the power of compound interest when it comes to money. The same applies to the time we invest in something, including our personal development. If we continue to invest our time wisely and with focus then we can achieve great things.

Malcolm Gladwell did a study (Outliers: The Story of Success) that explored the lives of many of the worlds most successful people and looked at the patterns behind their achievements.  One large theme prevails: that it takes a concerted application of time to achieve anything truly great.  Gladwell estimates that it requires 10,000 hours of quality practice to become an expert at one given thing or become world-class in a particular field.  This may not be a scientific proof but it is certainly indicative of the requirement for dedicated application of time if we are going to achieve our goals and our dreams.

Counting the opportunity cost

If we are going to be that focused and invest our resources in one particular way we are going to have to count the cost.  For every outlay of time or money there is an opportunity cost; the cost of not investing our resources somewhere else.  In other words when we choose to do one thing, by default we choose to not do various other things.

You can become good at almost anything, but you cannot be good at everything.

We watch sports stars, standing on a podium receiving their gold medal at the moment of glory.  What we don’t see is the years of training, the sweat and tears spent hour after hour, day after day, invested in the dream of that moment, in the winning of the prize.  How many days and evenings out with friends were sacrificed?  What number of holidays were foregone?  Which alternative careers were declined?  You can be sure that the opportunity cost was high.

There is no easy or quick win but through the right application of time, we can create our own perfect timing.  The fulfilment of a vision is going to take time and hard work.  That is why we need a dream to compel us, a mission to focus upon, and a passion to spur us forward, no matter what the obstacles are that lie in the way.  If we have that level of compulsion we can make the investment of time that is needed to succeed.

“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Tim Notke

Choosing the right time

Our time is finite; once spent we cannot claim it back.  Therefore we need to be careful about how we spend it and when we spend it.  Application is needed over the course of time to achieve success, but also there is often also a key moment to play the high stakes if you want to win big.

“I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.” 

Mia Hamm, Olympic gold-medal soccer player

You can invest the same amount of money in the stock market for a given amount of time, but when you choose to invest, re-invest or spend that money will make a big difference to whether you gain or lose money.

A marathon may take hours to run, so for an athlete, choosing the correct moment in the race to dig deep and close down the front runner could make the difference to between winning and losing.

Picking the ideal time is vital in maximising our effect and fulfilling our potential.

Creating the conditions for perfect timing

What a casual observer might call serendipity or synchronicity, those involved in a successful venture would call the careful aligning of positive factors – however seemingly unrelated – to bring about a positive outcome. Successful people create conditions for perfect timing.

Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, was a master of this. It would seem that he was fortunate to launch products just when people needed them.  The iPod, the iPhone and the iPad have all helped redefine the market for gadgets and made Apple a world leader in mobile technology.  But it was no chance.  Steve Jobs knew that you made your own luck, your own perfect timing. He produced a quality product but he also stirred people’s perceived need for his creations.  The genius of Steve Jobs was that he did not do what his customers wanted; he did what they were going to want.  Purchasers never quite knew what they needed until they had one, but upon owning an Apple product they were left unsure how they managed without one before.

Practice, patience and poise

It needs to be the right moment as even a good idea can fail because of bad timing. For example, there are good and bad times to change one’s career or launch a business.  Everything has its season.

Equally some visions are ahead of their time.  Leonardo de Vinci designed the revolving flying machine that preceded the invention of the helicopter by 400 years.  We just have to hope that our dreams do not take so long to come to fulfilment!

It takes discipline as well as wisdom to seize the moment.  Like a vigilant soldier, we need practice, patience and poise; practice to ensure we have all the preparation we need, patience to wait and poise in order to strike at the right moment.

How do you know when the time is right?

To have the best chance of creating the right conditions and picking the ideal time we have to be sure of where we are ultimately headed, of what we are doing and why. That is the reason that the ‘why, where and what’ questions of The Right Questions approach create the strategic framework within which we make our plans.

So what is the perfect timing for achieving your goal?

“Life is all about timing… the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable… attainable. Have the patience, wait it out. It’s all about timing.”

Stacey Charter

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