Here is one of the great things about self-improvement – you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Some of the greatest teachers and greatest teachings are new versions of very old ideas. They might have a slight new twist on them, but the main difference is the way they are presented. The same idea that was brought forth by a student of the seminary would be explained in a very different way from that of a young man who sang in a rock band and was a bartender and Postal worker for over two decades. That covers the transmitting end of things. The same can be said on the receiving end. That same idea will be heard differently by the young man in our example when he is in a band right out of high school verses when he is in his forties and has had more life experience. This is why to this very day I listen to and read self-improvement material every day. That, and I have a great passion for learning.
That brings us to today’s post. I was listening to a motivational video that I had heard a handful of times before. (Did I mention you can learn something new depending on where you are mentally at the time?) In it I heard one of those self-improvement clichés I have heard countless times before. I am not really sure this is a term, but this idea has been mentioned so often that I can think of no better way to describe it. Here is the funny thing about this idea and how I heard it this morning. When I began to ponder it I realized although I had understood this concept intellectually, I never really made use of it to the full extent, nor got it in my spirit. It seemed too simple, too obvious. Often we miss great opportunities because they seem too simple. I am letting you know that although I have know about this success tool for years I never put it to its full use because I dismissed it due to its simplicity. I tell you this in hopes that you will not do the same.
What is this powerful secret that can help us achieve our biggest goals? Before we reveal it, let me tell you two other benefits of using this method. First, it can reduce the stress that often comes with chasing goals. The feelings of failure or impatience will be few and less intense when they do show up. Second, you will also have more motivation to keep going. Here is the grand secret – The big things are made up of lots of little things. Not too mind-blowing huh? You may be tempted to think so, but I am here to tell you that you are wrong. It is the secret to achieving everything we thought we never could.
Do you have a goal you are working on? Do you want to write that book you have been talking about for years? Do you want to finally start that business of your own? Maybe it is something a little more personal like trying to mend a friendship or save a marriage? We often look at those things as a singular event when they are really countless little events. Writing a book takes discipline to write day after day for months and perhaps years. Trust me, I have written two of them. Starting your own business takes planning and many actions before you can call yourself a business owner. Picking a business, exploring locations and names. Developing a business plan and a million other things. How about the personal issues? Mending a friendship or saving a marriage? Let me ask you, did those fall apart overnight? Usually they did not. Even if you are just looking to strengthen a friendship or deepen a marriage, the answer is the same. It is a million different things. It is finding ways to genuinely compliment your spouse daily. It is learning what a friend is passionate about.
This can seem overwhelming at first, but once you dive in, the opposite is true. If I would have fully grasped the truth of this years ago, I would be so much farther in life. If I sat down and tried to write a book one night, I would either end up consuming vast quantities of rum, or having my brain explode. If, instead, I sit down and focus on writing the best chapter or idea that I am currently working on, I will not only be obviously be less stressed, but have a better quality end product. The same is true with my relationship. I always want Margie and I to be more loving and have a closer connection. This is not to say I feel we are unloving or not close, just that I am always looking to improve. I know that this is not going to happen in a single evening. What can happen in a single evening is taking one step to deepen our connection or strengthen our love.
I will give you two more quick examples to help drive this concept home. I recall a story told by the actor Will Smith. He told how his father had him and his brother build a wall one summer. Before they could get started, his father pulled him aside and told him some great advice. “Do not try to build the perfect wall.” he told young Will. “Instead, focus on laying the perfect brick. You do this over and over again and you will have the perfect wall.” It seems logical, but then why do so many of us find this so hard to do? The perfect example is working out. Especially around the first of the year we are all determined to get back in shape. If you are anything like me, you find yourself saying this on August 20th as well. We go in and try to run 460 miles or do a thousand pull ups, get sore and quit before seeing any results. That is why the gyms are full around January 1st, and seem almost empty a month later. What we should be focused on is getting the most out of each workout. Focusing on working the right muscles for the right amount of times. Enough to give us a good workout but still allow us to lift the pencil off the desk at work tomorrow, let alone be able to get out of bed to go to work. We focus on having the best workout we can each time we are at the gym and before we know it, we will look up and see how much better we are in shape. The same holds true for improving your diet, your parenting skills or anything else in life.
The lesson here is instead of being overwhelmed at the prospect of a large goal, become excited at doing each step to the best of your ability. When you do so, celebrate each win. You didn’t complete that book in one sitting, but you wrote one hell of a chapter. Maybe the chapter sucked, but you get that rough first draft out of the way so you can improve it tomorrow. You didn’t go from eating two pounds of bacon in one sitting to a runway model, but you did make it to the gym and walk on the treadmill. Maybe you didn’t make to the gym, but you walked around the block. You still ate way too much pizza, but instead of downing it with root beer, you drank water. Just keep at it and celebrate those wins. Do each step, each day to the best of your ability. Not only will that lead to accomplishing great things, but each day lived to the best of your ability will lead to an amazing life!