As a natural part of my latest book writing effort (Dream Chasers: Living in Pursuit of a God-Sized Dream) I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what stops people from running after their dreams. One of the biggest obstacles that I’ve noticed is how intimidating it can be to look at the sheer amount of work, effort, or time that would be required. We look at where we are, compare it to where we want to go, and throw our hands up in despair before we even start. Or even worse, we start along the journey to our dreams, but get discouraged and give up when we see other people advancing faster than we are.
But the thing is that the road to attaining our dreams is just that – it’s a road, a journey. And like any journey, the farther you want to go, the longer it can take to get there. That’s easy to say, and harder to remember – especially in this instant-gratification culture that we live in. So to help myself stay motivated and moving forward, I’ve developed a new motto: Improvement is Impressive.
Let me give an example of what I mean. I have always been the least athletic person in a very athletic family. My family is full of triathletes, marathon runners, martial artists, and general jocks. Christmas get-togethers, as you can imagine, involves a lot of chitchat about training regimes, upcoming events, and sports injuries – none of which applies to my life. They talk about doing things that I just can’t imagine enduring. I have one cousin who runs 10 or 12 miles at a clip in order to train for her next marathon.
But when I recently decided to get myself back into some semblance of fitness, I started by walking. Walking is a very effective way to ease yourself into exercise, but it’s not exactly glamourous. It’s slow, low impact, and time consuming. It’s just not an impressive achievement – especially not compared to the incredible things my family does on a regular basis.
So how do I keep myself motivated? By reminding myself that my improvement is what’s most impressive. That’s something that I can push for – something that’s quickly and repeatedly attainable. I can’t get myself out of the house with thoughts of the marathon I’m nowhere near running – not on a regular basis. I can’t push myself to run 10 miles when I’m still getting used to walking 5. But what I can do, what will keep me dedicated, is the idea that I can do better today than I did yesterday. I can improve my time, my speed, or my distance. I can take advantage of the day and use it to get a little bit better. If I commit to doing that every day, it will eventually take me where I want to go.
This idea is something that we can apply to any area where we want to see change. We may not be able to do it all at once. We may not even be sure that we can ever get it all done. We may be so far behind our peers that we can’t imagine catching up, let alone soaring on to new heights. But if we take our eyes off of the impossible distance that we still have to travel, and focus instead on the steps that lay right in front of us, we will find it much easier to take that first step.
So no matter what your dream looks like, find a way to move forward today. You don’t have to take great strides. Baby steps will do. But make it a point to improve yourself today, and then do it again tomorrow. Improvement is an impressive thing.