Anyone who has set off on a journey. Be it self-improvement, or towards a dream or goal. Will, at least at the beginning, have had to face a fear. That almost overwhelming feeling that comes when you realise the true scope of what you have to do to fulfil that aim.
Like a hobby jogger who wants to run a marathon. Or a couch potato who just wants to be able to run 5km. Or someone who fancies themselves as a writer and wants to write a book. That ultimate goal, the finish line, seems so hard to reach, so far out of grasp, when you are just at the start. The trick is to ignore the end goal and just start moving.
It can be even more daunting if you feel you are late to the game. Everyone else has so much more experience and expertise. The other runners you are up against have already run a marathon, maybe many. The dreams you have are also held by others. And they have been working on theirs for years.
Two things are important here. The first, and possibly the most important. No matter what you do, do not, I repeat, do not compare yourself to anyone else! No good will come of it. You will always see something in someone else that you don’t see in yourself. Someone else will be fitter, stronger, healthier than you. Have more success, money, admiration. Maybe even be where you want to be. Comparing yourself to others will only fill you full of worry, self-doubt and fear.
I’m not saying to stop looking at other people and their successes. It is great to have people to admire. People whose stories give you hope. People who have achieved what you want to achieve. People that have the qualities you want to have. They can be an inspiration. A guide to show you that it is all possible. You may even want to emulate them.
Just don’t compare yourself to them. There is one person, and one person only, you should compare yourself to. Yourself! The you of yesterday, last week, last year. Only there will you see how far you have come. Only there will you recognise your positive improvements. And once you do you will be surprised at how much you yourself becomes a source of inspiration, a source of hope, a source of pure drive, to yourself.
The second thing. Don’t be afraid of starting small. Everyone has to start somewhere. And that somewhere is at the beginning. It doesn’t matter how far you have to go, how large your goal is. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. He didn’t say it was a large step, just a step. Why try to go too far too soon?
Did Usain Bolt run 100m in under 10s the first time he ran? Did Jimmy Page play Stairway to Heaven the first time he picked up a guitar? Did JK Rowling write Harry Potter the first time she put pen to paper? Of course not.
I’ve mentioned this before in previous posts but when I started on this journey of being better one of my first goals was to get fit, get stronger. I didn’t start that by working out for an hour at a time, trying to lift the heaviest weights possible. It was barely a few minutes exercise. A few bicep curls. A few bench presses with light weights. At the beginning I wasn’t even breaking a sweat. What I was doing was getting into the habit of doing what I needed to do. Taking the first little baby steps. And continuing to take them.
Now, some 11 months later, my routine is up to 45 minutes long, the weights much heavier in comparison, the repetitions vastly increased, with time on a cross-trainer added. I couldn’t have done that at the start. And if I had tried to, back then, I probably would have said ‘enough of this’ and just stopped doing it. Now, I’m in a place where I mostly dread going out to do it. But do it anyway because I love the feeling I get after. That feeling of growing in strength.
Even this blog has made me realise the importance of starting small. I was looking at my statistics the other day and had a great shock when I saw that prior to this post I had written 59,339 words since I started blogging at the beginning of this year. If someone had told me prior to that first post on January 6 that by June 6 they wanted me to write a 59,000 word book, on any subject matter I wanted, I would have told them it wasn’t possible. I couldn’t do that. I’m a working single dad, have responsibilities, don’t have the time. The list of anyones excuses can be endless. But here we are.
Even my blog posts are done bit by bit. I might write it on the computer in one go but before that it’s all the little bits I do in preparation for it. It’s the jotting down of ideas, a few key words or phrases, as I go about my day. The best of it is, I can still do more. I am doing more, taking more steps. Steps in the right direction at that.
Personally, I don’t even pay much attention to my end goals, they’re always changing anyway. The reason being that as I take another step on this road of being better, find myself progressing, I am finding new interests, new avenues to pursue, new goals to chase and attain. That being said, I do think it is important to finish anything you start.
The start small to make it big principle is perfectly summed up in Darren Hardy’s book ‘The Compound Effect: Jumpstart your income, your life, your success’.
In the book, Hardy talks about how small changes, which show no immediate result, but which are done consistently over time, will make a real difference in your life.
He illustrates this with a simple formula: Small smart choices + consistency + time = radical difference.
It is worth noting that the compound effect can also work in the negative. Like how having an extra cream bun every day will eventually increase your weight. Or how a smokers teeth and skin will change over time, their possible health problems increase, just by having a cigarette a day. That is why Hardy’s formula has small smart choices. As long as the choices you make, the steps you take, are the right choices, the steps in the right direction, then their benefits will be positive.
So to anyone out there looking at that long road ahead, that vast mountain that is rising up before you, that big thing in front of you, have no fear. Take a measure of yourself, take that small step, then take another, keep moving. Look back once in a while, marvel at how far you’ve come, soak it in, and then keep on going. That mountain? It’s only really a molehill. That long road? A line in the dirt. It’ll all be behind you before you know it. Start small to make it big.