Baby Steps – The fundamental Truth of Achieving Anything in Life
I am, what you would call, a typical procrastinator. Heck, once I procrastinated reading a book on ‘How to Deal With Procrastination’ for a year! I find it easier to do things tomorrow than today, which pretty much explains why my back is against the wall at work so often.
Around the time when I was 18 and weighing about 100kgs, I found myself in a similar situation when a single push-up was not only the hardest thing known to my existence (besides getting a girlfriend, of course) but also the easiest to put off to another day. When I finally started working out, the most I could manage were long walks and avoiding sitting as much as I could. Of course, starting at the age of 18 is perhaps the most stupid decision in life (That’s the age you discover alcohol’s blessing in all its glory). I noticed my peer group and realized none of them were trying even a fraction of my efforts to get fit, simply because their lifestyle had been active all along.
The feeling of having lost time is one of the most depressing ones in life. I faced it when it dawned how much time had already passed, and how long it would take for me to catch up (forget surpassing) to my friends in terms of sports or fitness. Don’t believe me? My friend and I recently registered for a 10km run. While I trained three days a week for the run, my friend spent most of his time sleeping, eating and continuing with his usual lifestyle. Come race day, and he still beat my time by nine minutes, which was annoying because I clearly didn’t expect that to happen. Our contrasting histories as an active sportsman and a sneaky slacker still played a role in our performance after all these years.
This applies to everything in life; not just fitness. Think about it. We find it harder to learn anything new as we grow older (It’s called the miracle of ageing and a hectic lifestyle). I’m not saying it’s too late to start and you’ll never achieve your goal, but be sure to accept that the more you procrastinate the tougher the path to your goal becomes and the more hard work and sacrifice you require to put in. Instead, do a little every day, stay consistent and it’ll eventually add up—life is about short, incremental progress. It’s the lesson I want to share today: take small steps, focus on progress, enjoy the growth and be patient for the end result.
It’s happened to me countless times and is probably the same for a number of people. We started off with good intentions, bought that new book to read or joined some class to learn something new; but at some point we stopped. The book got shelved after the first 70 pages and we did not renew our class subscription. Most of us would say that lack of time was the primary reason and while that may be true in a number of cases, more often than not it is because we didn’t chase the desire to achieve and simply “went with the flow”.
I learned this through my efforts to exercise. I’ve tried a number of activities—football, running, walking, swimming and going to the gym—and every time I went with the broad aim to ‘get fitter’, I stopped at some point. That’s because I always fixated on that end goal but never let myself focus on the progress or my incremental achievements. Call it an epiphany, but it all changed the day I started to focus on minuscule goals that did nothing more than bring a temporary but true sense of achievement. Start of 2015 I couldn’t run a 5km without stopping for breath. Today, I have a 21km half marathon behind me and I’m hoping to do a full in a year.
It doesn’t need to be about exercising or getting fit; it can be music, dance, travel, work or your relationship with someone. The same principles apply to everything in life; small steps lead to big gains.
Each and every one of us has a primal thirst for achievement and that can only be fulfilled if we cherish the incremental achievements we make. We live life in a fast-paced schedule—wake up, work, eat, sleep and repeat. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, at least in my opinion. What is wrong, however, is that somewhere down the line we get so fixated on the long-term goals that we never stop and enjoy the journey, never tell ourselves we’re improving and eventually drown in pointless feelings of self-loathing, lack of self-worth and anger, which affect our loved ones as well.
Focus on progress; the results will come.
The progress shows you how far you’ve come and where you’re heading. You will get frustrated, and you will fail once in a while, just like I did. But that doesn’t mean you, or I, stop moving forward.
Who knows, maybe I’ll beat my aforementioned friend in the next run? Maybe I won’t. But as long as I keep improving, I know I’ll be happy in my pursuit.