Celebrate Small Victories
Every step is a step.
When I was in college I hated running, but I really wanted to be someone who liked running and who could run long distances. I had a friend at the time who had run track and field in high school and invited me to go running with her. Her route was three miles long, (which was three times more than I was used to running) and she set the plan to complete the route three times a week. At that time, I had not learned how to be consistent. Instead, I had a tendency to push myself as hard as I could until I felt sick and then stop engaging in an activity for months at a time. This strategy is not the most effective, but it was where I was then. My friend was much better about her routine, but I remember a conversation we had one day before we left for break. She mentioned that she was worried that she would not maintain her run schedule while we were off. I had shrugged it off, it was only a week so I didn’t see why it would matter but she told me her belief which was that not maintaining her workout was the same as starting over. All the work she had done for the semester would be lost if she didn’t keep up with it all the time.
Something about what she told me really bothered. Looking back I can see that it could have been because it implied that my way of doing things was completely useless, but there was something about the attitude that felt wrong to me.
In all honesty, there was a lot of truth in what my friend had said, consistency goes a long way, especially when it comes to reaching goals or training for events and after a while if you let go of a skill long enough it can feel as though you are starting over when you build it up again. But, what she said also undermined the importance of what you do accomplish, of the steps you do take, even if you don’t build up to a goal at that moment. It was the undermining of what was done that didn’t sit right with me.
See, training the way that I did back then was not going to get me directly to the results that I wanted, but that didn’t mean that each session wasn’t significant in its own way. I tried to be more consistent and sometimes I would do well for a few weeks or months, but I would always stop. It might have seemed like a waste, but there was part of me that knew it wasn’t. Each time I tried was still a step towards health, each attempt still mattered, and when I finally found my way to consistency I drew on the memories of those time periods to keep going.
Why am I telling you this story? What is the point?
The reason is that sometimes we go towards things and the results aren’t always what we expect. We work up to something and then fail to reach the goal, or put in effort that doesn’t seem to pan out. This is discouraging, but it doesn’t mean that it is hopeless. Each step, even if it doesn’t move in an exact straight line is still a step. In the story above, each time I ran I still improved my health for that period of time, I learned more about myself and my stamina and eventually I figured out where my blocks were so that I could remove them and learn to enjoy running. Even if I didn’t do that, those attempts would not have been insignificant, in each moment that I tried I created a healthier state of being for myself. In the same way, when we move in the direction of something we want it isn’t wasted. Even if we don’t get as far as we would like right now we are putting our time and energy into something that matters to us and developing those skills in that moment. Maybe we will have to re-develop them again in the future, but the paths will have already been created, making the re-development a little faster and easier. Plus, for the duration of the time that we are focusing on what we want we are engaging in something that we have chosen to make meaningful.
All of this builds energy, momentum, and practice towards living a life that is meaningful to you. This is not wasted, it cannot be. Each moment that you engage in something that is important to you is a moment when you have voted for the prioritization of your own values, and energetically the effect of that is profound. Each step you take into new territory is a moment of learning and it is a victory—so celebrate it. Each minute you spend enhancing a skill that you want to develop is a moment spent engaging in your purpose, celebrate it. Each attempt you make to set and reach a goal is action towards taking ownership of your life and setting up your own momentum, be proud of it.
On the outside these might be small accomplishments, but the pattern they create is meaningful and they deserve to be recognized. The recognition may one day come from the outside world, but in these stages when the success seems small it will primarily need to come from you. That’s okay, small steps build up. In these moments you can recognize where you are and celebrate each step, knowing that it does matter. There isn’t really a starting over. Yes, muscles can atrophy and you might have to rebuild endurance that you have not practiced, but each time you have strengthened yourself still counts as strength. The echo of it doesn’t leave. So, don’t undermine your efforts by calling them meaningless, just because they don’t look big right now. Celebrate the little things and use that motivation to push you forward and you will see them eventually become bigger.
Celebrate the small victories, be proud of the progress you have made as you live in a way that is meaningful to you and remember that every step is a step, and every step counts.
Have a great weekend. Thank you for reading.