Editor’s Note: This is a contribution by Joanna Z. Weston
“Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go.” ~Unknown
It is laughably easy to forget to stop and take stock of how far we have come in our lives. Our world focuses so much on what we lack—be it money, beauty, prestige, or romantic success—that it is far too common for us to get trapped in the loop of needing to have, be, or do “more” before thinking that we might be good enough. I, for one, do it all the time.
A year and a half ago I was unemployed with no idea what to do next. I’d spent my life until that point ignoring the conviction that there was something I was meant to do. Since I didn’t know what that calling might be, I played it safe by getting a library degree.
I was pretty good at library work, but I was never passionate about it, which made me an unremarkable candidate for the few remaining library positions after the economy crashed.
All of this left me sitting at home, miserable. Unemployment, combined with a particularly nasty winter, led to a terrible flare up of my lifelong nemesis, depression. To say that I was despondent that winter would be a gross understatement!
Of course, I can now see that this was a blessing. That terrible winter pushed me to realize that something had to change, and fast. I was finished playing it safe, and ready to figure out my dream!
Since then, I’ve identified my true calling (to become a life coach), sought training, and now I stand on the cusp of living my ideal life. But is that how I see the situation most days? Of course not.
More days than not, I find myself focusing on how far I still have to go. I see the programs I haven’t implemented yet and the website that isn’t quite perfect, rather than taking the time to marvel over the fact that I have so many ideas and a website at all.
And you know what? Failing to acknowledge how far I’ve come robs me of a lot of joy and a lot of pride. I may not have everything figured out in my new business, but I’ve come a long way from where I was a year ago.
I would be willing to bet that you’ve made huge progress in the last year, as well, but are too focused on what remains to be done to see it. I invite you to start giving yourself credit for a lot of hard work and achievement.
Some tips to help you see how far you’ve come:
1. Sit down and breathe.
It’s hard to hear the truth when a thousand voices and worries are circling through your mind. Taking just five minutes to sit down and let the voices become quiet can make a huge difference.
2. Ask yourself, “Where was I this time last year? Five years ago? Ten?
I can guarantee that you will be surprised by your answers. Change comes slowly, so it can be hard to see it, but it’s always happening, whether we see it or not.
3. Review your notes.
If you keep a journal or blog, reread some of your old entries. You’ll find written evidence (in your own hand!) of just how far you’ve come when you see what was upsetting you back then.
4. Make a list of your accomplishments from the last year or the last five years.
I don’t care how small or insignificant it seems, write them down! Then look at that list and reflect on just how much you’ve done.
5. Ask a friend or loved one.
We can be our own worst critics, so sometimes those close to us have a clearer view of how much we’ve grown than we have of ourselves. If it feels awkward to ask someone to tell you nice things about yourself, offer to return the favor.
6. Track the personal, not just the professional.
Remember that not all progress is related to your career. How have your relationships, your spirituality, or your self-knowledge improved?
7. Celebrate the little things.
As you go about your day, try to notice when you take even the smallest step toward your goals, and be sure to honor that in some way. Even just writing it down in your journal will give you that moment of recognition.
8. Realize that it’s never done.
We all want to reach the top of the mountain and feel that we have achieved something. We want to be finished, but that’s never going to happen; our lives are a constant work in progress, which is the way it ought to be. Trust me, you’d be bored if you weren’t constantly changing and growing.
Whatever you are working towards, and however far you still have to go, I encourage you to take the time to truly bask in everything you have achieved thus far.
It doesn’t matter if you are moving fast or slow, only that you keep moving! And the best way to ensure that you continue to do that is to cherish each step along the way.