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Are you taking control of your time, or are you allowing other people’s constraints and ideas to get in the way of achieving your goals?

Conventional wisdom has it that it takes four years to get a degree. And yet, there are people like Steve Pavlina and Derek Sivers that have done it in much less time.

There might be those who say it takes 10 years (or 10,000 hours) to master a skill, yet there are those who are incredibly good at what they do — and even successful — despite not having 10,000 hours of experience.

People tend to put everything into timelines. Think of the workweek or the school year. Think of your goals, and how long you expect them to take.

If you want to achieve anything, it serves to reason that time is a factor. You could even say it’s the most important component to master, because if you don’t make time for the work your goals will require of you, they won’t ever come to fruition.

Yet, many of us still choose to accept the standards and timelines of others.

We say, “I would love to have a job like that, but it’s going to take me four years to get that Bachelor’s degree.”

We say, “I want to be debt free, but that’s going to take me another two years.”

Is that your timeline, or is that someone else’s?

Really think about it. We all know that our brains are incredible instruments, and by directing our thoughts, we can set into motion ideas, and therefore actions, that will move us in the direction of our dreams.

If we constantly dwell on how long something will take, how much effort it will take, what kind of sacrifices we must make, we’ll probably never get around to doing the things we say we want to do. We end up betraying our own intentions.

I don’t know too many people who accomplish things just because. When someone says they’re going to get into shape, and they mean it, it happens quickly. When someone says they’re going to learn an instrument, and they’re determined, their progress is simply astounding. They clearly understood their own motivation for doing something.

But did they get there by subscribing to the timelines others set in place for them? Did they listen to those who didn’t think it would be possible to achieve more in less time?

When we say we can’t do something, we need to be asking ourselves if it’s that we can’t, or that we aren’t willing.

If you wanted that job, wouldn’t you have started taking the steps towards getting it already? If you wanted to get in shape, wouldn’t you have started an exercise and diet plan?

You’re lacking something. You don’t have that spark or that determination that people with a purpose do.

This implies that you can “get” a purpose, which isn’t quite right. Rather, passion is something you can build over time. You can take one step today, and then another tomorrow, and then another the following day, and over time, your momentum will build. It won’t even be noticeable at first, but if you keep at it, you’ll light your passion ablaze.

The incessant subject of the Law of Attraction is at least partially rooted in perception bias. I’m not saying whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, because what we’re talking about here is no different. Objective reality does not factor into achievement if you’re a man or a woman on a mission. Use your perception bias to speed your progress. Why not?

So, again, I ask you, is your timeline your own, or is it someone else’s?

If you want to go to school to get a new job, there’s absolutely nothing saying you must take four years. Yes, you might have to work a little harder if you choose to complete the program in less time, but if you stay focused, and you’re excited about what you’re doing, it will hardly even feel like work.

If you want to learn a new instrument, you can start studying today. There are plenty of resources you can take advantage of. There are teachers and experts you can call upon. There’s nothing stopping you from beginning your journey, except you.

This does not mean that you should stress yourself out, risk your health, sabotage relationships, or go into financial ruin to achieve an end. But it does mean taking a sobering look at your life and acknowledging that you haven’t mastered time yet. Time is still managing you.

Does a workweek have to be a five-day cycle? If there’s something that needs to get done, and you’re under the gun, you’re probably not even thinking about the workweek anymore.

Conversely, if you’re finding that you’re knocking tasks off your list like a boss, and you’re achieving optimal productivity by working three days per week, who’s to say that isn’t better than the accepted standard?

Is the school year the time to work and the summer the time to rest? Certainly, there might be good reason to take advantage of the good weather when you can, but if you have momentum, and you’re steadily progressing in the direction of your dreams, why do you need to stop for summer?

My point is that it can go both ways. On the one hand, other people’s standards can be too slack. On the other hand, they can be too rigid, and too linear.

If someone had a gun to your head to complete five day’s work in three days, wouldn’t you do your very best to get it done in that time, especially if there was an incentive for doing so?

If a disease was threatening your life, and you absolutely needed to work out for five days per week to stay alive, wouldn’t you at least try?

Realize that the same inner resources are always available to you. You don’t need to wait for something to go awry to begin preventing and preparing for the challenges and obstacles that are surely ahead.

The hardest part is that nobody is more invested in your dreams than you are. No one cares more about your health, your relationships, or your finances than you do.

The question is, even if you aren’t at gunpoint, will you muster the strength to achieve what you are truly capable of achieving? Will you give yourself a chance at success knowing that failure is always a possibility?

Founder of Music Entrepreneur HQ. Download your free guide:

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