Monday, May 13, 2013

Like Brushstrokes in a Portrait

I have a propensity to set large and elaborate goals for myself. Currently, I’m working on a list: 30 before 30. Which is exactly what it sounds like, 30 goals to accomplish before my 30th birthday, two and a half years from now. 

In the past, most, if not all of the goals I have set are forgotten within weeks. I look through journals I wrote in high school, all filled with unfulfilled albeit worthy aspirations.  Had I stuck with every goal I’d ever set out to fulfill, by now I would probably be a bilingual journalist, living in a foreign country running marathons. I would know magic, be filled with historical knowledge, dabbling in paleontology, and occasionally I’d be seen on stage. Sounds impressive right? As it so happens that is not an accurate description of my life. I got so caught up in the failure of my attempts, or the effort it took to achieve my lofty goals, that I would give up entirely. Lets face it, its just easier not to try. 

In the past year or so, I've noticed a change occurring. Most of the goals I now set are achieved. Most likely this change has occurred because of age and maturity. I also have a new attitude and perspective.  What I've learned that makes the most difference is: Be patient with yourself, and enjoy the journey. 

About four and a half years ago, fueled with good intentions I decided I would run a grand, full scale marathon. This was a pretty lofty goal, considering I'd never run a mile in my life. Not even when it was required of me for a grade at school. One day, for whatever reason I decided I was a marathoner. I put on some running shoes and ran out the door. Boy I was tired. I finished quickly (I don't know if I made it down the street) and came back home. I tried again a few days later. Maybe this isn’t what I really wanted. After a few weeks, my short lived desire to run a marathon was abandoned.

Flash forward to one and a half children later. My second pregnancy pushed my body to the limit. I determined somewhere around month 7 that if I ever made it to delivery, I would become a runner. I would actually start to appreciate my body for all it could do. If I could create a human being, I could certainly run. This time I decided to make a plan. I dedicated time, I gained knowledge, and when my baby was born, I began working on my goal. Things were slow at first. I started using the couch to 5k program. One of my friends began running with me. Four months after I began running, I ran my first 5k in 26 minutes.  I actually enjoyed running once I decided that I didn't need to be an elite runner the second I decided to lace up my shoes.
Right before my first 5k

Eventually I increased my mileage and last November, I completed my first half marathon. It was a full year from the time I started the couch to 5k to the half. The feeling of accomplishment was much greater than if it had been an easy undertaking. I found joy in the work, in the failure, in the try. I learned that my body can do hard things, my running partner became one of my closest friends, I learned to push myself to the limit, I learned that I can literally talk myself into enduring the run long after I assumed my body would give out. I keep going.

 David A. Bednar describes our efforts in life like a painting. Close up, the brush strokes don’t always makes sense, but as you step back and look at the painting as a whole, you can see how each stroke you make contributes to the portrait of our soul.

Each time I made the effort to put on my shoes and hit the pavement  my confidance grew, as well as my strenght and endurance. Becoming consistant, changing my habits little by little changed my perspective and my ability. This is true of any skill we hope to develop, whether its mastering a language, perfecting a craft, or just adjusting our character. 

Be patient with yourself. Each time you try, you put paint on your canvas.  When all is said and done, step back and look at the completed portrait of who you have become. Everything worth accomplishing is worth the time, effort, and fail. 

1 comment:

Brandee Evarts said...

Great article! I find this step by step approach applies to most things in life. It is so easy to get discouraged when we set our goals too high. We need to remember to make our goals realistic. Usually, that involves breaking our grand goals down into smaller, easier to achieve goals.
When I was a teacher, it was so easy to get overwhelmed with all the things in my classroom I wanted to improve upon. I discovered that if I picked one subject to focus on each year I was happier, I accomplished more, and I didn't spend every waking moment at school. I became a master in one area instead of proficient in a ton of subjects. This lesson seems to be one of the hardest to learn in life, yet so simple.
As women, I think that we are bombarded every day with images and media that tell us how amazing we can be. We forget that those women didn't wake up being able to decorate their house, cook like a chef, sew like a master, and be a size 2 in one day. It takes time and work. Piece by piece, one step at a time.
Thanks for the reminder to slow down and work on something worth it a little at a time.