When coaching individuals who are pursuing long term commitments and goals, it is helpful for them to think about and focus on a practice.  Overly focusing on a goal can short circuit long-term success when goals are distant. Becoming a master at anything requires being present in and enjoying the daily practice of a work skill, a musical instrument, or a sport.  Developing and settling into a routine and examining how well the effort went today is a very different experience than going through the motions while waiting impatiently for the future.

It is valuable to recognize and celebrate the moments of perfection that happen on the road to mastery.  Intentionality is a powerful tool in creating focus and motivation.  It is inherently valuable to continue to pursue daily improvements in one’s practice.  Executing a little cleaner, faster, or more collaboratively serves as a satisfying process goal.  Celebrating and learning from each milestone is reinforcing and energizing.

Sustainability starts with thinking about the work process as a practice and finding the satisfaction within it. If you were to take up fly fishing, working on tying flies can be satisfying without jumping ahead to thinking about the fish that will be caught.  As a coach, help people connect with the intrinsic motivation that can be found in work practices.  Pursuing mastery of project management, design, or quality testing drives different behaviors and engagement than viewing them as necessary tasks on the way to the “real” goal.

Our culture is obsessed with achieving an endless series of wins.  In real life, there are plateaus; we find ourselves impatiently waiting in the doldrums.  An interesting study confirms most chronic disease can be reversed with lifestyle changes that can be practiced over time, but people want quick and dramatic fixes (Ornish 2019).  It is the role of the manager to create focus and energy around doing the right thing every day while holding optimism for the future vision.  Measurements that include the fidelity of the practice are an important counterbalance to the “are we there yet?” measurements.