On average, in addition to all that I read for work, school and personal interest, while doing physical tasks I listen to probably more than 10 hours a week of audio books, lectures, long-format interviews with people who are specialists/experts in their field, or extraordinary achievers, or people performing at the top of their game. And now, as I get busy with personal coaching, each week I spend hours asking questions and listening to people tell me how they are finding solutions for their goals and growth. I am reading or listening to an enormous amount of positive testimony.
On one hand it is inspiring and encouraging to hear from all these people achieving big things, bringing great benefit to the world, and experiencing wonders I’d like to experience myself. I feel encouraged to keep working and growing in my own pursuits. On the other hand, it can be a constant reminder that others have done so much more than I have or probably ever will. There is so much more I must do if I ever want to be on par with certain (contemporary or historic) peers in my own accomplishments. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and feel like an under-achiever, or that I’ve started too late to catch up.
Now, with just my first paragraph of this essay describing all the information I attempt to absorb in a week, some of you might feel the same way, either on track, inspired or intimidated by it. The question is, does your reaction generally encourage you to keep going on your own path, or discourage you?
I want to encourage you to keep going!
Regardless of how much someone else has achieved compared to yourself, no matter how low you feel your current position is compared to others moving in the same direction, in any case where personal growth and health is concerned, it is worth the effort to keep moving ahead on your own.
There are internal benefits and rewards at every step of improvement along the way. You don’t have to wait to arrive at the level of those who inspire (or intimidate) you in order to get good things. As a matter of fact, most of the dramatic benefits and rewards to personal transformation efforts are often found in the earliest steps because the contrast between where you were and where you are now may be the greatest. For the advanced practitioners, the farther they go, the harder them must work for ever smaller increments of improvement – they need to keep drawing on the benefits derived already at earlier steps. And, whatever those benefits are that those at the top of their game are experiencing, those are only possible because the benefits from early steps were acquired first many years prior. From my own and from what I’ve heard from those who achieve amazing things, the wonderful experiences that those advanced practitioners have could not be appreciated without having gone through the earlier steps of achievement. The benefits of the earlier steps set the stage upon which the benefits of the advanced steps are produced.
This means that even if you don’t come close to achieving what someone else has, you will still be rewarded for going as far as you have… if you appreciate the differences between where you were and where you are now.
I want to urge you to not despise the rewards that are there within reach of the small steps you can take right now to make an improvement in some area of your life. The stories you hear from elites can be used as assurance that there is a path to follow toward greater things, but then once you get on your path, set aside their story and focus upon the goal appropriate for you and the next step in front. Extract all the learning and reward you can from it. Savor the changes and impact on your life. Something as small as 5 or 10% positive change in your fitness, skills or environment would likely be experienced dramatically.
Regardless of how close or far away I seem to be from advanced practitioners, in my own experience it has been worth the effort – I have been rewarded at every step to increase my education and understanding, to pursue greater movement skill and fitness, to experiment and pursue positive changes in my nutrition, to practice skills and strength in mindfulness, to improve my breathing technique, to improve my sleeping, to name a few major areas in my life. The rewards I have experienced so far keep me motivated to keep going.
Don’t be discouraged, and certainly don’t use others being so far ahead of you as an excuse to give up on your own efforts. Be encouraged by knowing that others traveling the path of improvement ahead of you did not clear out the rewards for everyone else – yours are waiting for you just as theirs were. Get on your path, stay on it and savor each stage of the journey, no matter how slow you go, or how far you get.
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