It’s one of the hardest lessons to learn, whether it comes to weight loss, quitting smoking, writing a novel or getting your dream job. Primed with that first, wonderful burst of determined enthusiasm, we rush out to conquer whatever’s standing in our way with all the fervor of the newly converted. For a little while, at least, we’re sure we can do anything.
But whatever mountain we’re trying to climb inevitably outlasts that first rush of enthusiasm, because no matter how much we want something there’s still only so much our fragile human selves can do at once. The more worthwhile and life-changing a goal is, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to knock it out in a few weeks or even a few months. If the mountain you’re trying to tackle is big enough, you might not feel like you’ve made any progress at all during that time.
After working that long and hard for something that still seems so far away, you’ll start worrying that you should never have bothered making the climb in the first place. There will be a moment when your energy fails you, and you look at your treadmill or the alarm waking you up for your morning jog and loathe it with every fiber of your being. When you find yourself with a cigarette in your mouth, despite your best intentions, or you stare at your resume and wonder if you should just delete the file completely.
This is the point where so many people give up. They see a slip and a fall as the same thing, and take either as a sign to give up on the mountain completely. Some get sick of the work they’re putting into it, but others turn around because they feel like they’ve failed some kind of test. If they were a better person, the kind of person meant to accomplish whatever they’re trying to do, they wouldn’t be feeling so lost and discouraged by now. They lose hope, and let their doubts talk them into walking away.
But there’s no one, anywhere, who has ever raced to their goal with an easy stride and a song in their hearts (and if there are a few rare blossoms out there who have, do the world a favor and don’t admit it to anyone). Achieving your dreams, no matter what they are, is a long, slow and often painful process that takes the kind of raw determination that isn’t nearly as pretty or fun as enthusiasm.
The kind of people who accomplish their goals still curse their clock’s existence, think longingly of cheesecake or a cigarette, and cry and swear and kick things where no one can see them. And then they get up and go for the run anyway, or say no to whatever they’re craving for the thousandth time. They grit their teeth and suffer through the misery, because they want what’s at the end badly enough that they’re not going to let anything stand in their way.
That doesn’t mean they don’t stumble sometimes, earning scraped knees, heartache and grief instead of another step forward. When that happens, because it inevitably will, they pick themselves up, wipe their eyes and forge ahead. Falling a thousand times doesn’t mean you won’t get to the top of whatever mountain you’ve set your sites on.
You’ve just got to take it one step at a time.