This is a post for those of you who are working hard at something and starting to get discouraged. Maybe you want to lose weight, maybe you’re learning a musical instrument, maybe you’re writing a novel. You’ve been working for awhile, trudging along, day after day, and you’re starting to wonder if there’s any light at the end of the tunnel. Are you really getting anywhere? Does what you’re doing really matter? Should you give up?
I’m here to answer those questions for you.
YES, you are making progress.
YES, what you are doing matters.
NO, never, ever give up.
Participation counts. Turning up counts. Some days you don’t feel like it, but you do it anyway. Sometimes you only have enough mental or physical energy to do a couple of scales, walk around the block, write a paragraph. You’re not making any huge amount of progress, but you know what? It all counts, especially the days that are hard. Here’s why:
You may have heard it takes 21 days to form a habit. The accuracy of this theory hasn’t been tested, but it’s absolutely true that if you repeat something enough times, your brain starts to form neural pathways and the habit starts to stick. It matters that you go for that walk even when you’re tired, because you’re forming a habit that’s going to get you through the hard days in the future. Soon it will feel weird not to exercise/practice/write, and this is where you need to be in order to achieve your goal.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell proposes it takes 10,000 hours of work to become an expert at something. This theory fails to take into account natural aptitude and a host of other factors, but the point is this: Every second you spend working towards your goal gets you that much closer.
When you get up on a freezing cold morning to go for a swim and only manage two laps, it counts. When you stay up late to write and spend two hours planning without adding a single word to your manuscript, it counts. When you work every single day and don’t see an inch of progress, when you feel like you’re getting nowhere, when everyone around you seems to be moving faster… it all counts.
One of my favourite quotes is from Stephen King and it goes like this: Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
If you’re working, you are making progress, even when the finish line sees so far away. You’re making your goal into a habit, you’re putting in the time, and you are going to make it. Say it with me.
Become The Person You Want To Be
It’s hard to work day after day, night after night, receiving no recognition. Maybe it seems like no one notices the work you do. Maybe it feels like you’re the only person who cares whether you succeed or not. Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter.
John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one’s watching.”
You are what you do. If you run, even if you can’t go far without taking a break, you are a runner. If you write, even if you’ve never been published, you are a writer. Be the person you want to be. All it takes is that first step… and then a hundred more.
And you know what? They do see. The person who calls you when you’re out running, they know you’re working towards your goal. The family members who see you close yourself away in your bedroom for an hour each night, they know you’re walking the walk. Every moment you put into your goal is a declaration: This is who I am.
I know you’re tired. I know it’s hard. But you ARE getting somewhere. You’re going to do big things with your life. Just keep on working.
I’m proud of you. Keep going.