Humans are exceptionally artful when it comes to providing reasons for not behaving in ways that are in their long-term interests. For instance, ask people why they don’t eat more healthily, exercise more consistently, or save more for retirement, etc., and you’re likely to end up with a whole host of detailed reasons why, for them, it just “doesn’t work or hasn’t worked.”
One key reason we stop productive, healthy, or helpful behaviors prior to experiencing positive results is because we embrace initial expectations which are unachievable. Perhaps you’ve heard statements like this: “I’ve been working out for 3 weeks and my clothes still fit the same!” Or, “I’ve been watching my diet recently and I’ve only lost a couple of pounds!” Or, “Saving a few dollars each week won’t change my retirement account much.”
Or, more applicable to advancement work: “We sent that new direct mail annual fund solicitation and it cost almost as much as it brought in. We probably shouldn’t try that again. It didn’t really work.”
As if your health, your weight, your retirement account, or. . . prospective donors. . . will show immediate and positive responses to your initial efforts. They won’t.
For important life work (i.e., your health, your long-term financial security, or promoting generosity), the time between the initial action and the response we desire is always longer than we expect. The more often we step on the scale in the beginning of a new exercise regime, the more likely we are to quit the regime. Research has suggested that the average time between a donor first thinking about making a major gift and actually making that gift can be as long as 7 years!
If you are serious about seeking meaningful results in areas that matter, don’t set your initial expectations on the end results. Instead, commit (and hold yourself accountable) to doing the fundamentals consistently, persistently, and patiently.
Trust the process.