As we stretch toward 2018, I’ve been remembering an offhand remark made by a rigging customer thirty-plus years ago. He was a developer who thought big and followed through on significant and very visible “improvements” to our physical world. When I asked how he tackled such enormous building projects, he shrugged and said “do something toward it every day.” As if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
I’ve since heard a variation on this same basic advice from pretty much everyone who dreamed big and then followed through, across a wide range of fields. It’s a basic tenet of Personal Planning for business and freelance projects. Anne Lamott, the author of a fantastic book about writing called Bird by Bird, tweets, “How to write: Butt in chair. Start each day anywhere. Let yourself do it badly. Just take one passage at a time. Get butt back in chair.” A blogger I follow has even turned this baby-steps approach into an entire course; Srini Rao says, “The quickest and most risk-free way to make real progress on the things that matter to you is to build it into your days, just like brushing your teeth.” (Learn more on Unmistakeable Creative.)
It’s easy to scoff at small progress, failing to see its significance—until we look back, months later, at the cumulative effect. That’s why we pin our yearly resolutions on big changes, which seldom make it to February. My brother-in-law said once: “Everyone can have great ideas. It’s the rare person who follows them through to completion.”
Here’s my resolution for 2018. Instead of “I will write another novel next year,” I promise to keep writing at least five hundred words a day, five days a week. Many of those thoughts and images might eventually end up in the word-dumpster, but when I look back next December I will have completed another boatload of blogs, articles and stories—and maybe even have made a start on the next WIP.
We all have things we want to change or improve or create. It doesn’t matter whether we dream of building the next skyscraper, writing a novel, or something else altogether; divvying up big dreams into digestible morsels is the only way to make consistent progress toward a long term goal. Even if those morsels are as easy and basic as sitting my butt down at my desk every morning and writing.
Happy New Year to all, and may 2018 bring you a few baby steps closer to your own dreams!