5 year rule

Five year rule

I love this quote below by James Clear that’s aligned with my five year rule.

“Most big, deeply satisfying accomplishments in life take at least five years to achieve. Five years is a long time. It is much slower than most of us would like. If you accept the reality of slow progress, you have every reason to take action today. If you resist the reality of slow progress, five years from now you’ll simply be five years older and still looking for a shortcut.”

Five years has always felt like an eternity for me. I’ve never stayed in a job that long. For a while, I moved to different cities (and often countries) every 2-3 years. And, I haven’t had a business make it to Year 4 (yet!). However, something is changing for me as I get older and wiser.

When I look back at those things that mattered the most, it truly did take years to achieve anything. Most of my closest friendships are at least a decade long. I built my career on top of 6 years of business school education. And I’ve had opportunities to paddle around the world because of many years of training.

At the time, I took those time investments for granted. However, today it’s become clear to me that if you want to start anything new and actually become good at it, you shouldn’t begin unless you’re willing to commit five years. It’s a rule I’ve started incorporated into my life because I know how easily I get distracted by shiny new ideas and opportunities.

With this in mind, I started learning Spanish again, and four years later I’m not yet fluent but getting closer. I started playing guitar during our last Covid lock-down and then realised it would take years to gain the dexterity in my fingers to hit the cords. I didn’t want to commit that time, so I donated my guitar to a charity.

This new rule also relates to my career and business. A few years ago, I would have dropped what I was doing for the next best job opportunity or business idea that came along. Now, I’m very committed to seeing my current consulting practice grow.

And to be clear, quitting something early is not breaking the rule when you know that it’s the right thing to do. The five year rule is more about the decision to start new things. So, if you’re someone like me that’s easily distracted with the next shiny opportunity, consider incorporating this rule into your life and see real achievements emerge.

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Tammy Ven Dange

IT Consultant for the Not for Profit Sector | Host of "Executive with a Cause" Podcast

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