Savour the small wins

In Changing life, Life goals, Productivity on February 20, 2012 at 10:18 pm

This time last year, I begun to have a long awaited breakthrough with my hunt for a new job. Six months before I decided to stop working freelance as a consultant in the face of public spending cuts on consultancy spend in my sector. However, I had stubbornly held on longer than was wiser as I felt like stopping would be giving up (silly really).

What took me by surprise was that it took me a good six months to be offered work. I hadn’t been in the competitive jobmarket as an employee for a few years. Against the backdrop of a recession, employers were able to cherry-pick hires in an extremely competitive job market.  Apart from serious financial peril looming, I had lots of interviews but always seemed to be pipped at the post. Thankfully, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the job I was finally offered ended up being much, much better than I had thought possible.

After I started working and earning again, and more relaxed, I was able to look back at those six months. In many ways it wasn’t getting the job that the mattered the most. Of course, being able to earn decent money, pay the bills and have a social life was a lifesaver. There were plenty of days over those six months where it was a real struggle to get out of bed and do anything-except hope the day would get better and bring some positive news, and cash! It was a time of real up and down emotions – pride, diminishing self-esteem and depression. But, it was taking difficult, but small steps everyday to keep job hunting, keep tailoring those CVs, keep preparing for interviews, that helped remind me of something I had long forgotten about achieving anything in life. This includes that nothing is inevitable; take nothing and no-one for granted, and when luck and opportunity decide to take an extended vacation at a time of need, you better dig in deep.

What was really an eye opener was the importance of taking even the littlest step forward, especially in those times the ‘you know what has really hit the fan.’ My goal was to find a job, almost any decent job, but preferably one that paid well, kept me busy, gave me responsibility, and wouldn’t knock me too of track in my sector or skills. The break came by a bizarre twist of luck, which I grabbed with both hands, but the point was the break would never have come if I didn’t keep taking small steps (e.g send out another 50cvs daily) despite how I felt inside.

You may have your own life goals you are wanting to achieve right now?

Maybe it’s career related, or a change in lifestyle, financial or emotional? Of course there is a whole debate about whether the things that we think bring us meaning actually really can and are worth pouring energy into (another blog post).  But it is easy to get discouraged and feel defeated when trying to make a change or pursue a goal. It’s easy to think “why bother?”

Sometimes those goals or changes can seem so far off; sometime in the future unspecified, maybe leading to the temptation to think you’ve all the time in the world, so don’t have to take action today or tomorrow (literally). Also those changes and goals of life that we decide to try for can also seem beset by obstacles and mountains. This can definitely feel overwhelming as emotions get the better of you and have the effect of putting you off trying (“it’s too much,too difficult”). Sometimes those changes and goals have the weird effect of revealing or amplifying all sorts of ‘weaknesses’ and insecurities, that perhaps we would rather not understand and let go off.

It is even easier to get distracted by things, situations or people that aren’t helpful. Our attention span in a world full of digital distraction, is like a cat with a ball with wool! I’ll be posting a blog on the theme of compassion shortly but it’s important not to bring yourself down if you do get discouraged. When you’re trying to achieve a goal and the gremlins in yourself or from the lips of others start proliferating, try to be compassionate to yourself.

I think when you put off from moving forward or feel afraid to do so, taking small little steps is best. It is more likely that you’ll achieve small wins that matter more in the long-run as you pursue your goal. Savour the small wins because it means you are fortifying a stronger sense of confidence and a more realistic appraisal of your capability at that point in your life, without letting others or yourself putting unrealistic expectations on you.

That isn’t to stay that at some points you won’t need to take some pretty big steps or a leap of faith across the crevice of uncertainty (sorry :)). That’s life. Sometimes those big steps are brilliant opportunities, sometimes staring you in the face, but sometimes maybe it is not so clear whether the jump will lead to success or hardship. But no-one ever really gets what they want in life without some kind of leap of faith, small or big.  If you’ve built up your self confidence and built the foundation so far, brick by brick, step by step, you’re more likely to be okay and more likely to jump.

I could say look at the giants of history who have achieved a lot in their life – you know the Edisons, the da Vincis, the Newtons and the Einsteins. Certainly, these are lives that achieved genius, but we’re not all called to genius in that way. And sometimes the achievements of the Greats may seem too amazing and too overwhelming to understand how their examples can be of application in your own life.  I think it is best to start with your own life first. Look to your own life experience as well for the times that you’ve managed to take steps toward a goal, big or small (you might want to check out a previous post I wrote on ‘Being a hero to yourself’). The point isn’t whether you’ve succeeded or not. It might be learning something new, starting to exercise, preparing for exams or test, becoming a parent, delivering a great piece of work at in the office, mastering previous insecurities in another area of life that made you stronger, achieving a financial goal? Doesn’t matter. The thing to hold in your mind and heart is the trying.

It’s the trying that matters most and whilst circumstances might be different and harder at the point you find yourself at now, there have probably been times in your life where you thought you would ‘never walk again’. But you took a few more steps and you did ‘walk again.’

Write down and regularly read and remind yourself daily of your past and current small victories, these battles won, especially if you are going through a particularly bad patch.

Contrary to some, I don’t think it is always advisable not to give in, but only if you’ve really sat down and objectively tried to assess the situation and been honest with yourself whether you are giving in because you’re too scared, or lack the skills for something, etc. You can change those factors. If you walk away for those reasons, I hazard a guess you are probably giving up, not giving in. That is a difference which can impact the rest of your life.

If you’re giving up – don’t. Be strong. You can do it. Just a few more steps to get you mentally, physically or emotionally in the right place, because the tide will turn, and if you take those steps forward you’ll be ready to surf the wave and move forward into better and more surer times. As motivational speaker, Jim Rohn once said,”It is the set of the sail, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.”If you’re giving up, where will you be once the tide turns, and the opportunity presents itself? It is too far a distance to run from the beachhut with your lager to the wave that might take you forward in greater and more expansive times.  You’ll miss the surf, dude!


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