written by Paula E. Bird, copyright 2014
Welcome to February! Where did January go? If you have had a month (or December) like I had, you are scratching your head and wondering whether you were even awake during the past month. How can a month go so quickly?
Time to check in and regroup on some of those goal plans and priorities we had set at the beginning of last month. How much progress have we made? Sometimes I have to fight the perspective that I have made little movement forward. That is when I look back to the very beginning to note exactly how far I came. Every few years I climb South Sister, a hiker's mountain in Central Oregon. I make the climb to remind me of so many different things regarding goal setting and achievement and perspective. This instance I want to talk about achievement on a goal path.
The South Sister climb is arduous. I cannot say that any part of the hike is easy. Once I reach the summit, the hike is still difficult because the temptation is to lie down and take a very long nap into the next century. Of course I know that I need to take advantage of the moment and traverse to the other side of the summit to admire the view. To make the steep climb and then not take in the entire view seems like a silly waste of time and effort.
My favorite part of the hike though is not the summit. My fondest memories involve the point during the ascent when I stop to turn around and admire the view behind me. At this point, I gain perspective about my efforts. While I am facing forward and straining to make progress, I have to fight off feelings of despair. This really is a tough climb, no matter how great in shape I might be. I have to fight off many moments when I am tempted to stop. The experience is quite a mental challenge and strengthens the psychological muscles as well as the physical ones. There are many spots along the way when I want to quit trying and sit down.
When these moments get to be too much, that is the point when I turn around. The view behind me is as beautiful and spectacular as the view will be once I reach the top. The best part though is comprehending exactly how far I have come from my starting point. Even one-third of the climb up looks enormous when I turn around to view it behind me!
Here we have begun February, and I am guessing that you may have hit one of those psychological moments, when you ask yourself questions or battle negative self-talk like:
Is this really worth it? Am I going to make it? This isn't any fun. I don't want to live my life working this hard. Why did I want to set this goal?
This is the moment when you need to turn around and take a good look at how far you have traveled in the past month. Where did you start? What did that picture look like? How many miles have you walked or run? How many pounds have you lost? How many words have you written? How many books have you read? How many bags of trash have you cleaned out of your closets? How many days have you practiced?
I do not know what your particular goals have been, but I am fairly certain that you have made some progress. Instead of beating yourself up because you have not made as much progress as you would have liked for the effort you perceive that you have given, still let us not sneer at the progress we have made. Even the act of taking the first step is an act to celebrate because it helps to overcome inertia and build momentum. Each act you perform or step you take will strengthen your muscles of choice, discipline, perseverance, and patience. A plant will not grow overnight; you will not achieve a goal in that same speed as well. As I am fond of reminding myself from time to time, thanks to the flylady people (fly lady), I did not get to this point in a day, and it will take me longer than a day to get to a new place.
My most powerful tool is the sticky note on my mirror that says, "Today I will _______." My answer each day will determine the direction I will go. I may fill in the blank with a baby step toward my ultimate goal, but as my South Sister climbs have taught me, these baby steps add up in a hurry.
How will you fill in the blank?
Today I will ____________________.