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The Power of Manageable Steps

Hello everyone!  I hope you are all doing well and staying safe in these strange times.  Today I wanted to talk about a piece of advice that I have received from several people throughout my life, and that is to ask yourself, “what can I do today?”  If you are anything like me, it can be hard to see big projects through.  New Year’s resolutions are a great example.  How many people say they want to get into shape, write that book they have been thinking about starting, learn an instrument, etc.  And yet, come the second week of January so many of those aspirations are left behind.  

Why is this?  A big part of why it is so much easier to start things, and much more difficult to maintain them, is because a lot of times these goals that we set for ourselves are rather grand in scope.  Standing at the base of a grand mountain, we see the peak at the top and think to ourselves how wonderful the view must seem from up there.  

There are two main issues with this mode of thinking.  First of all, it implies that there is a mountaintop to begin with.  We want to be healthy.  We want to be good at a skill we are learning.  We want to be studious.  Instead, try viewing these goals in another way.  Instead of trying to be healthy, try to be healthier, instead of aspiring to be good at something, aspire to be better than you were yesterday.  By viewing progress in this way, your only metric is yourself and your own progress.  Don’t look at models before exercising; that sort of thing doesn’t happen overnight.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and likewise nothing impactful and lasting can be done in a short amount of time.  Change your mindset to improve, and suddenly your objectives won’t be as intimidating.  

The second issue with gazing up at the peak of our metaphorical mountain is a matter of magnitude.  It is a lot scarier to look at where you want to be a year down the road, since it seems so far away as to be intangible.  This is what leads to people giving up.  Somewhat similar to my last point, try viewing the path to where you want to be not as one grand journey, but a series of smaller hikes.  Don’t go from zero gym visits a week to five or six; you’ll get too tired and won’t want to continue.  Don’t decide you’re going to practice an instrument for three hours every day when you are just starting; you’ll get burned out.  Make things manageable, and ask yourself what you can do in this instance, and you will be far more likely to continue pursuing your aspirations.  

Lastly, don’t forget to forgive yourself for failing.  We all miss a day.  We all have our times where our goals fall secondary to the stresses of life.  Cut yourself some slack, and don’t use setbacks as an excuse to throw your arms up in the air and say, “well I guess that’s it then.”  Go at your own pace, and never forget that it is ok to strive not to be good, but simply to be better.

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