It doesn’t matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. ~Confucius
Ask anyone who was once out of shape and started a workout program. Or the single mother who finished college one course at a time over a period of years. Or the marathoner who crossed the finish line last, but finished and got the t-shirt, while the rest of us sat on our sofas eating kale chips.
Small steps, baby steps—they all add up to a big finish. Ask any body builder how much she could bench press when she first began. “Not much,” will be her answer. Because athletes—professional and otherwise—know the secret: it’s one step at a time.
But as a society, we don’t like to defer gratification. We want it and we want it now. Instantly. And if we don’t get it now? It’s easy to give up.
I should know: I’ve probably started 25 diets in the past few years, only to abandon them all the first time I fell off my path.
It’s easy to let one little mistake set us up for failure. But if we’ve got a goal of any kind—physical, academic, professional? We need to keep positive momentum going to turn that goal into action.
And those little missteps? They’re going to happen. Accept that they will and get right back on your program. Stop with that one small stumble. Don’t let it become bigger.
You might not be the best at a new skill your first day out. Or an A student in every course. You might not be able to run an entire mile the first month. But if you keep to your program and exercise self-discipline, you’ll see progress all along the way, until that moment when you achieve the goal you’ve aimed for.
There’s a corollary here, and it is “A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.”
Read this next: Courage Comes in Many Flavors
I don’t know about you, but I can come up with dozens of reasons not to start today. I’ve done it. Dozens of times. But as I know only too well, starting today and keeping at it every day is the only way to reach a goal.
Carol Cassara is a writer and ordained minister who believes in living fully in every color of the rainbow. Her essays have appeared in Skirt! magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, several Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, on public radio and other venues. After a long career as a corporate communications executive, she is enjoying having more time to write, travel and just enjoy life. When she's not traveling the world, she lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and crazy little maltipoo. Her daily blog inspirations for creating our best lives can be found at www.carolcassara.com.