No, you won’t make time. Because you can’t.

“You cannot add something new or achieve anything meaningful without sacrificing something else in its place. Ponder this powerful idea. It may explain why some of your past or present goals remain elusive.”

Eric J. Hörst, Training for Climbing

People love to set goals, but they hate to suffer through the logistics necessary to actually achieve them.

Listening to motivational podcasts, researching the optimal workout routine, visualizing all the grit you’ll employ on the path to becoming the person you want to be – these preparatory steps are way more fun than actually laying out a plan you can stick to. We research our dream destination to death, but we usually wait until the last possible moment before actually comparing flights.

But if you don’t handle the logistics sooner or later, you’re not going anywhere.

A goal is like a destination in that way. We resist the “flight comparison” stage because it reminds us that we have to give something up – hard-earned money – to get where we want to go. It brings commitment into the equation, and evokes a frustrating truth: You can’t achieve anything new in life without offering something in return.

In the case of a goal, that’s because the number of hours in a day is fixed. Most of us are already crushingly aware of this fact, but we don’t know how to take action on it. Swept up by the intoxicating promises of new year’s resolutions, we often try to “wish away” the harsh realities of time management with those three magic words…

“I’ll make time.”

But you cannot make time.

Your day – and, by extension, your week, your year, and your life – is a closed energetic system. It obeys the first law of thermodynamics: time can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only be transferred from one activity to another.

Dispense with the dream of using your “free time” to work towards your goal. Your day is already saturated. After all, when was the last time you did absolutely nothing (literally nothing – just sat and stared into space)? If you can’t remember that happening, then where exactly is all this “free time?”

To fit something new into your day, you need to dislodge something already taking up space in it.

Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as finding the low-hanging fruit. If you’re expecting some stock advice (“Give up the morning latte to grow your savings account”) you won’t find it here. Oftentimes token sacrifices won’t cut it. And sometimes these small daily indulgences are the things that give your day stability and meaning.

If there’s already something you’re trying to do less of (video games, web browsing, TV binges), then start there. But if you’re satisfied with the general structure of your day, you may need to dig deeper, and part with something that actually hurts.

“Out with the old, in with the new.” There’s wisdom in the ordering of those two steps. If you really want to get somewhere new, take an honest look at what you can leave in the dust to get there. If you’re not willing to give anything up for it, the goal may not be worth your energy. And that’s really, truly, honestly okay. There are many things more worthy of your precious time than the unattainable.

Want future write-ups delivered to your inbox?