Leaps are lies


The great leap forward is a myth.

If you notice that someone has leapt, they were actually just taking tiny, single, baby steps, one at a time. They were just doing it while you weren’t looking. Between your glances, they covered more ground than you expected – hence the leap.

We’re always looking for leaps, but to do that is to focus on the wrong thing. All we have to find are the tiny marginal gains – and then take those steps.

Just one more step forward.
Then another.
Then another.
Then another.

The trick is to keep going – no matter what.

While others hesitate, or get bored, or quit, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

And they will look up at us and say “wow, they’ve leapt forward”.

Why goals lift us out of the mud

gunners-of-the-2nd-heavy-anti-aircraft-regiment-rca-pushing-a-3-7-inch-anti-aircraft-gun-through-mudImagine you’re trudging through a muddy field.

It’s up to your knees; the mud is sucking at your feet, every step forward is a battle; the wind and rain are lashing your exposed face and body.

It’s a miserable experience and you’ve got at least another 8 hours of this before you get where you’re going.

By all accounts, you’re having a pretty shitty time of it, and it’s not going to get better any time soon.

But while the current situation might be objectively cold, wet, miserable and hard – there’s no requirement for you to feel bad about it if you’re working towards a good enough goal.

How you feel about trudging across the field is going to depend on what you’re telling yourself about WHY you’re doing it.

If all you can think about is the field itself, then you’re in for miserable time. The road will be slow, the effort will be immense and the experience will be unnecessarily painful.

But if you can keep your eye on the prize, if the goal is meaningful, then it can transform the experience.

Meaningful goals put our current experience within a bigger, more meaningful context and this can drastically change our perspective of the here and now.

Suddenly we’re not just trudging though the mud, we’re going home to our family. Each step gets us closer, so each step now has great value.

If we’re in training, then each step makes us stronger and gives us more of an edge against our competitors.

If we’re making art, then each step, no matter how painful, becomes an expression of our work, a mechanism for our message.

But if we haven’t taken the time to give ourselves a meaningful goal, then guess what? We’re just trudging through a muddy field.

Finding happiness in rough times

after-the-rain-by-stephen-bowler

We can always find something to be unhappy about. It’s not hard. Or clever.

We can always point to circumstances or situations which are sub-optimal (or just downright shitty) and say “that’s why I’m not happy”.

But where does that get us?

How does it help (us or others)?

How does it make things better?

We can, and should, find what is good and amplify it.

We can, and should, find what is bad and mitigate it.

But there is very little value in tethering our happiness even to these noble projects. They’re still external and outside of our complete control.

To be happy, even in the dark times – we should work to improve our character – our own interface with the world.

Can we stay calm when things get hectic?

Can we stay humble and grateful when things go our way?

Can we stay brave when things get scary?

Can we keep moving forward – one step at a time?

Can we keep striving to make things better?

If we work on our character – our reactions and interactions with an imperfect, unfair and indifferent world – then we always have something worthwhile to work on.

Our progress and growth can always be a source of satisfaction and drive since they are within our complete control.

Then we always have a something to be happy about, even when things are rough.

Make some space to care

llama-flame-by-ana

Our time is under pressure and we rush from one task/meeting/thought to the next.

We often provision enough time to do something, but not enough time to care about it.

We get a lot done this way, sure, but what does this rushing cost?

  • We write the email, but don’t give it that final once-over
  • We’re asked for an opinion and we give an impulsive reaction
  • We act and respond out of habit, rather than authenticity

The world is constantly experiencing a version of us, and our work with less care than we might like to give.

And right now, the world feels like it could use a little more care, not less.

Now, it isn’t practical for us to agonise over every word, tweak every pixel and second-guess every thought.

But what if we left space for:

  • one last look after we think something is ready to go?
  • one more beat to properly understand the question?
  • one more moment to apply the full force of our effort, attention and focus?

What would be the value of making space for just a little more care?

Turning the right wheel

dashboard-by-frank-dibona

When we’re grasping at the past or pining after the future, we’re essentially yanking on a steering wheel that’s not connected to what we’re trying to influence.

We turn it this way and that, hoping to have some impact, but it only takes a small dose of perspective to realise how futile (and ridiculous) this is.

The wheel is however, connected to the present moment and every turn we make has an impact right now. Being deliberate and attentive to what’s happening right here and now is the only way to both steer our ship in the present moment and to have any influence over our future.