I once read somewhere: nothing motivates like success. It is often the desire to succeed, to derive joy from the attainment of a goal, and the benefits from such achievement that drive individuals to persist and persevere, to toil and tolerate. As a race, we are designed to feel motivated by thinking about the end result.

You tell someone they are hired for a job paying them one hundred grand a year and they immediately start visualizing saving or spending that money, they start planning, they start imagining themselves in the office, speaking to co-workers and the rest of it. It is natural. Steadily, these thoughts become part of one’s expectations. If what they thought varies greatly from what they actually get, they are disappointed. They set a goal for themselves, the next target, and they give themselves a time frame. So far, so good.

Whenever embarking on a new venture, though, the primary difference between success and failure is the motivation to persist, to stay motivated.

A winner chooses to carry on. When people ask me questions around meditation, changing their habits, about self-realization, and so forth, the one common question I get is: How long will it take? This is my focus today. Let me share a little story with you.

An elderly monk was en route to an ancient temple in the mountains. Traveling on foot, he had been on this pilgrimage for nearly two months now. In the spirit of a monk, he carried with him no possessions except his alms-bowl and a set of robes. He would simply stop whenever he felt like resting and beg for food whenever he was hungry.
One step at a time, he traveled over two thousand kilometers. Finally, the tall mountain with a temple-like a crown on its head was visible from a distance. A feeling of relief, a surge of joy, a sense of accomplishment rose up his spine.

A further few steps and he saw an old woman working in the fields. He stopped and said, “How long will it take me to reach the temple at the top of the mountain?”

The old woman turned around to face him, gave him an indifferent stare, shrugged, and went back to sowing the seeds in the ground. The monk thought it was highly unusual because he knew most villagers to be warm people. Perhaps the woman did not hear, he thought. Pointing in the direction of the temple, he repeated, “How long will it take me to reach that shrine?”

The woman gave the same reaction again; this time, she softly growled too. The monk asked his question one more time only to get the same response. He concluded that the old woman was deaf. A little disappointed, he resumed walking towards the mountain.

“It’ll take you eight hours,” a voice yelled from behind. It was the old woman.
Intrigued, the monk walked back to her and said, “I don’t get it. I asked you three times, and you did not answer me. Now that I was on my way, you called me from behind to tell me the distance.”
“I’m not telling you the distance, Master. I’m simply telling you how long it will take you,” she spoke, “when you asked me earlier, you were standing still. How could have I answered your question without knowing how fast you walk! As for the distance, from here, it’s a trek of twenty miles.”

There you are! There is no absolute answer to how long it will take you. It depends on multiple factors, and your pace is only one of them. More often than not, it is just about staying course and persisting and staying motivated. We all know the hare and the tortoise classic.

There are essentially four elements that lead to success. They are:
1. Knowledge: Are you well-equipped? Mentally and skill-wise? If not, what do you need to do to acquire it?
2. Approach: Do you have the right mindset and approach? Are you positive, optimistic, ready, flexible? Can you keep yourself motivated? 
3. Resources: Do you have the right tools, resources, or are you trying to drill a hole in the wall with a spoon?
4. Efforts: Are you putting your best foot forward no matter what?

There is a fifth element. You can call it grace, fate, luck, destiny, or anything else you wish. This one manifests when you do not waver. It may appear like a coincidence, a stint of luck or serendipity, but the truth is with the four elements above, you create that perfect moment of realization, of attainment.

Steady and small steps turn into giant strides and leaps ultimately. Tiny drops of water, one after the other, create a waterfall. Buddha did not gain enlightenment just because he sat under the Bodhi tree; he slogged for years before the arrival of that perfect moment, all that learning and struggle culminated in manifesting the moment of revelation, of epiphany, before prince Gautama became Buddha.

Go on! Give it your best shot. You should be able to look in the mirror and say, “I gave it my best shot, and I tried everything I possibly could.” When you can say that to yourself honestly, you can have your wildest dreams come true, from material success to divine realization.