Every journey begins with a single step. We’ve all see the footprints that accompany this quote on a motivational poster or the viral pin. Sometimes they mimic toes strolling through the sand. Sometimes they mime business shoes stepping across a floor.
What they don’t mimic is real life.
I’m going to say something really controversial. I don’t know anyone who loves line graphs, pie charts, or spreadsheets more than I do. Them there’s fightin’ words in the money world, right?
There’s something so soothing about being able to dump data into nice neat rectangular boxes, add a formula, click a button, and admire whatever visual representation best suits your numbers. Do I want the legend on the right or the left? Maybe I don’t want one at all. Should I adjust the title? What about the axes? I could play around in Excel or Google Sheets all day.
I’m not alone.
In the money community, we spend a lot of time charting progress, posting updates, tracking this and that. Even in the event of a downturn, that’s all it is. A downward slant waiting to be righted again.
It might give you pause, it might make your heart skip a beat, but you expect the rebound. As you should. If life was like the stock market.
As much as I would love to say that progress is a journey that begins with a single step, it’s more a combination of Chutes and Ladders mixed with one of the old-fashioned dance steps diagrams where the steps become virtually untraceable by the end.
Progress is messy. Progress doesn’t always seem like progress, and it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s always headed in a forward direction. Even for someone who has spent the majority of her life pegged as an ultimate optimist, I have a hard time mustering through the backward steps in the routine.
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There’s been a lot of discussions lately in self-help circles, in workplaces, and on social media. The power of positive thinking. Creating a culture of positivity. #positivevibesonly
I love a catchy hashtag as much as the next person, and if I have to err on one side of the continuum, I prefer my glass a little too full, my glasses a little too rosy, and my side a little too bright.
But that’s not real life, not all the time. That’s not how progress works. But we aren’t allowed to say that anymore.
Mention a problem and suddenly you’re negative, you’re Debbie Downer, you’re dwelling on what isn’t working instead of focusing on what is. You just need to really accentuate the positive.
Do you know who says those things? The person who is looking forward. The person who survived the backslide. Not the person in the middle of one.
Of course they don’t. How could they? How could anyone?
When you are really in the midst of making progress, it is all-consuming. It is stressful, of course, but it is exhilarating. And it is virtually impossible to stop the process long enough to reflect on what is happening, let alone write or even call home about it.
We don’t write in the mess. We live it.
What I need you to know, what I need me to know is that this is what progress looks like. No matter how many lists you design, no matter how many systems you have in place, there will come many a time on your journey when you feel like Dorothy flying through the air completely unmoored.
You’re heading somewhere. You might come up a step ahead. You might come out a few steps back. But you’re still journeying. You’re still progressing. You’re still moving.
You won’t make a straight line. Your life won’t look like any roadmap or blog post or chapter in a self-help book, not when you’re in the midst of things. But when you’re on the other side, you’ll see the dots connect. Until then, well, we’re all along for the ride.
So Tell Me…What’s something that happened to you that threw you for a loop? How did you sort it out or muscle through?