I'm in Tokyo now for the first time in two years, and it's mostly familiar. Some things don't change much: the spinach-lentil curry from Nataraj is still a taste bonanza, it's still confoundingly difficult to wrestle a SIM card from one of the phone companies, and I'm still not equipped with a good enough sense of direction not to get lost. But one big thing has changed: all of my gaijin (foreigner) friends here are much better at Japanese.
It's astounding, really. My Chinese friend is so fluent that I assumed he was Japanese and I had just forgotten, another now knows seems to know all of the Kanji, whereas he barely knew any last time I was here, and a third who never seemed to speak before effortlessly chats with Japanese people now. This is the other side that I talked about in Instant Habitual Change.
Maybe it's a result of our instant gratification culture that people don't like waiting anymore. The problem is that some things require waiting, and if you aren't willing to wait you end up missing out on a whole category of experiences and accomplishments.
Like learning Japanese, for example.
No amount of waiting around doing nothing is going to teach me Japanese. I have to supplement my patience with tutoring sessions, trips to Japan, and sounding out every Japanese word I see when I walk through Japan town in SF. Most importantly, I have to execute my practice with respect for the amount of time it will take to learn the language. I pace myself for the marathon by installing good habits and building a solid foundation of the basics before moving on. If I was trying to sprint to learn Japanese, I wouldn't have time for these things.
I used to wish that I could be famous instantly. Every blogger wants his blog to be widely read, and it's easy to fall into the trap of believing that if you just had that one big link on Digg or Reddit that you'd instantly be mega-popular. But, of course, these things don't matter much. You get linked and get a spike in traffic, but those people are mostly gone the next week. What actually builds readership is putting out quality posts consistently. As time passes you become a better writer, get a better feel for your audience, and find your voice. I'm not good enough at these things yet to be famous, but I'm getting closer and will get there some day.
Weight loss is another big example. Try and lose thirty pounds in a month and you'll either fail or gain it all back the next month. Focus on a healthy diet for the long haul and within a year you'll easily get to a healthy weight and stay there. You can instill the habits instantly, but results take time to manifest themselves.
So that's how I get things done these days. I very quickly change my habits and plans, and then wait and course correct to see the changes turn into results.