Reality Check: Fast or Slow?

As I was working on a project that hasn’t been proceeding as quickly and smoothly as I would like, I received an emailed newsletter.
Now, here’s something that both you and I know about work. When doing a task that requires concentration, we must be diligent. We must guard against distractions. Don’t let them in. Don’t be tempted. It’s especially important to be diligent when the work isn’t going very well.
Unless you have much better self-discipline that I, you may have also experienced the reality that knowing the right thing to do doesn’t mean that we’re going to do it. This is a roundabout way of telling you that I immediately distracted myself with the newsletter and temporarily abandoned the task at hand.
As it turned out, this distraction happened to address exactly my difficulty at that moment. The newsletter was by Dr. Joel Wade, a life coach in California, who takes an approach to life and happiness that I happen to favour.
In this edition, he pointed out that if we are to accomplish anything worthwhile, we often need to start slow. There’s an impulse to rush at the beginning, to get a big win right away, and then cruise into more victory. But as he points out, victory often only come after significant, repetitive, and ongoing defeats. It is through our persistence that we actually become capable and able to achieve.
Because of his personal background, I find Dr. Wade’s opinions about accomplishment more credible than those offered by many advice-givers. As a world-class athlete in his younger years, he has experience in what it takes to achieve at a high level.
In brief, Wade’s commentary is that when someone has truly mastered what they are doing, they make the activity look easy. When we watch a skilled person, whether it’s a musician or a carpenter, everything seems to come together for them, effortlessly. Then we try it ourselves, and find achievement is not effortless at all.
Wade points out that skill takes time, but it also takes deliberate practice, curiosity, research, and advice. We need to invest the time, the work, and accept the learning we’ll get from our inevitable setbacks before things will start coming together.
It reminds me of the old folksy saying, “The hurrider I go, the behinder I get.” A methodical approach is best; persistence matters; there will be failures. Occasionally, we need reminders of those truths.
Readers sometimes tell me of instances when a column has directly addressed an issue that’s going on in their lives at the moment, as if I had written it just for them! That was my immediate response to Dr. Wade’s column; it was exactly what I needed to get back on track and reinvigorate the discipline that I know is necessary. Start again, slowly. Taking shortcuts, only to be disappointed with results, was ultimately wasting time and breeding frustration.
This was also a reminder for me of the value of ongoing encouragement. I think of encouragement as much like taking a bath—once isn’t enough. Encouragement is more effective when we keep giving it, and receiving it, over and over again.
Because sources of encouragement don’t always fall into our mailboxes right when we need them, I “encourage” you to look for it. Seek out encouraging writings, music, poetry, and people. Likewise, find ways to generously encourage the people around you. I think it’s worth it; what do you think?

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