Brian Tracy's metaphor for how to keep moving towards achieving your goals even when the road is long and the journey is hard.
Having big goals is great, but what happens if you loose faith in what you’re capable of doing? What happens when you lose sight of the end goal? What happens when you look up at your lofty ambitions and think “holy shit that’s impossible, surely I’ll never get there?”. In this situation it can be very hard to keep going because the goal seems so far away you simply lose faith and stop moving forward.
The key is to not focus on the goal. Keep the goal in mind by all means, but don’t focus on it. Instead you should focus on the next milestone, the ‘mini goal’ that is near enough in front of you to keep you moving forward.
What’s with the barrels then? Well here is one of my favourite people, Brian Tracy describing how he crossed the Sahara desert while travelling the world in his early 20s:
The French, who had controlled Algeria for many years, had marked a path across the desert with black 55-gallon oil drums. The drums were spaced exactly five kilometers apart. As we drove and came to an oil drum, the next drum, which was five kilometers ahead, would pop up on the horizon, and the last oil drum, which was five kilometers behind, would fall off the horizon, as if shot in a shooting gallery. Wherever we were, we could always see two oil drums at a time — the one we had just left, and the one we were headed toward. To cross one of the greatest deserts in the world, all we had to do was to take it one oil barrel at a time. We did not have to cross the entire desert at once. We had to cross it only one oil barrel at a time, and that would be sufficient.
This is how you keep going. This is how an enormous challenge such as crossing a desert can be done, just one barrel at a time. If you ever feel as though you’ll never finish your project then try asking yourself this: “What are my barrels?”. Brian had actual barrels to look for as he crossed the desert, but what do your barrels look like? Once you figure this out then you can start moving again.