Like most kids who get the chance at a quiet weekday mall, my sister and I were playing on the escalators. I made it to the top of the down escalator without any problems, but my sister—with shorter legs—was struggling. She got tired, stopped to rest, and started being carried back down.
“Keep moving!” I called down to her. ”If you need to rest, take the steps one at a time as they come. If you stop, you’ll just have further to climb. Don’t stop moving!”
She has always remembered that lesson and regularly applies it in the different roles in her life. There is no such thing as standing still. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. If you want to get better, it takes regular and consistent effort to improve yourself.
One of the reasons we don’t do more to improve ourselves is because we can’t see the growth as it happens. We feel like we’re pushing and pushing and pushing ourselves and not getting anywhere. All we see is how much farther we have to go. It’s hard to stay motivated.
We want results, and we want them now. We don’t like waiting. But the truth is, any result that’s worth it takes time. We need to learn to wait for the marshmallow. It’s worth it.
A saying often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, though it’s probably apocryphal, is “if I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening my axe.” Have you ever tried chopping wood with a dull axe? It isn’t fun. With a sharp axe, it’s still a lot of work, but at least it’s fun.
There are four dimensions to our lives. We need to constantly sharpen our axe in each of them.
- Physical. Physical activity has proven benefits to productivity. Run, jog, walk, swim, dance, ride a bike, or golf. Eat healthy. Get plenty of sleep. Step away from your desk throughout the day. You’ll get more done and feel better.
- Mental. Read. Listen to music. Solve logic puzzles. Watch TED talks. Learn a new language. Become a student of everything. Once we stop learning, we stop living.
- Social. Connect with people, even if you’re an introvert. Learn the receptionist’s name. Ask someone how their day was, or if they have plans for the weekend. Wish people happy birthday. Talk to a stranger. Smile.
- Spiritual. Connect with God. Connect with nature. Connect with humanity. Read the Bible. Pray. Meditate. Volunteer at a charity. Gaze at the stars. Watch the sunset.
You don’t need to do much, but do something every day. Be intentional about it. Plan for it. It should be your A1 task for the day. Make it a habit.
Regular and consistent progress will pay off. You won’t notice much day-to-day. But one day, you’ll look around and realize just how far you’ve come.