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Incremental Progress: One Good Thing Done

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Utilizing the power of incremental progress is a choice that is always readily available to everyone.


To get from one place to another, one career to ownership of a business, one situation to the next, we are always presented with the freedom to choose. We can choose what to do, or not.


I was having a rough time this morning*. Someone keeps trying to hack my accounts and disturb the peace in the relationship I have with my awesome husband. I have already deleted my social media apps off my phone to take a break, but for some reason, that stuff still rears its head up. Like a well-established wart with the malicious intent of a vengeful ex, negativity sometimes just keeps on coming. So, I sit there and ruminate, until I realize I have every power to interrupt this cycle and get on.


I made my bed, which always leaves me self-satisfied. I surround the act in gratitude and I begin to feel enjoyment. I love my big bed. It is comfortable and cozy. It keeps me warm when it’s cold and holds loving (and sexy) memories of my husband and me. We spend a lot of time laughing and cuddling in it. There is nothing better, more reassuring, more enjoyable, and warmer than going to sleep in there together and him kissing me before he heads off to work.


I get out of the room and decide to make a list of things that will ease the anxieties I have about the next month. January, after all, seems to be so damn busy for everyone and we just happen to be traveling internationally and moving homes (yet again!)


In that list, I wanted to: book hotels and activities for our trip, pack for it, compare home prices to pick a few, and essentially pack the entire house for the move. These were all big issues that have stayed on my plate for the last month, but knowing what I know, I must make progress in some way because the only way I get to ‘Done’ is to start somehow.


It may seem a little silly, but I tackled the list by first packing away the Christmas tree and decor. I did it in five minutes and I am now packing for our trip. In reality, I know I’ll get everything done well before the end of the month and that I’ll get to a point of feeling accomplished because of it. It may not happen as straightforward as it sounds, but I am confident in my ability to hold myself accountable because, at my best, I place no responsibility on how I show up to others.


When it is all said and done, it will set me up to live my dreams–to settle down and settle in a home I like, dive into the waters I’ve dreamt of diving as a child, and to share the country I spent my childhood in with my husband. Coming back to ‘why’ I -really- need to tackle my list is inspiring and drives home what I know to be true:


The key to our personal journey of actualizing our hopes and dreams begins with small and seemingly insignificant choices to act on some part of it.


Looking back at the start of this post you can follow my journey from:

  1. Waking up to negativity

  2. Interrupting negative thoughts with gratitude and doing one productive thing in my routine (make the bed)

  3. Create a list of my current problems/tasks

  4. Set and complete a microstep by packing away the christmas tree

  5. Set another microstep of packing for the trip

  6. Reminding myself of what my current problems/tasks were really about - getting one step closer to my hopes and dreams


The journey did not complete my task list, but I felt a renewed sense of optimism which lightened my psychological burden. I believe this process can be helpful to everyone.


When I was going through the heartbreak of divorcing my first husband, I had severe physical and emotional pain. But, I was still on the hook for showing up to work and showing up for myself. It took me so much energy and effort to make progress. I tried to remind myself that my efforts will have a tremendous impact on my future but holding myself accountable was difficult because I was only beholden to myself. I lived alone. I had friends I saw from time to time, but for daily living, I was responsible for paying the bills and choosing my choices for the day. My parents had little to no expectation of what achievement or better looked like aside from authentic happiness.


I took micro-steps to help me out of this quagmire. Some days success looked like just having one meal, some days it was consistent therapy visits, and some days it looked like three steps backward into drinking a little too much and procrastinating, which meant the next microstep was just to sleep. Fast forward a year later and I feel unrecognizable: I developed an understanding of what unhelpful stories I carried from my childhood. I had multiple projects completed at work. I was on the way to another promotion, and traveled to a few new places that have been on my bucket list. Imagine where I am now, just a few years later.


If you are feeling stuck, I challenge you to write down where you are having difficulties and one microstep you can take towards resolving, making peace, letting go, or closing that chapter. When you complete that activity, write the next microstep in your process. Do this for an entire week and see where you are.


Example:

“I am stressed because of upcoming due dates for x.”


Next, rephrase what the problem authentically represents to you:

“I stress about due dates because I have high expectations of myself and I feel embarrassed when I don’t meet those expectations.”


What microstep can you realistically accomplish at the moment to move forward? Note: It is really helpful to also look beyond and try to unpack when anxiety, stress, and expectation come from outdated unhelpful beliefs that stem from a mentality of lack.


“I can assure myself that missing one due date does not dictate my entire identity”

“I can accomplish ___ which brings me one step closer to finishing an aspect of this task.”

“I will write a list of tasks.”

“I can ask for help to make finishing x faster”


The concept of taking small steps forward really is based on the idea of living within the present moment. It is most effective when done with the acknowledgment that the past is done and staying where it is. Doing something now rarely brings the immediate future outcome to the present, but one can surely appreciate leveling up the emotional scale.


I'll write another piece on how I brought my thinking mind back to "normal" focus and stillness using the teachings of Eckhart Tolle and neuroscience.


---- 'til then, friends.


*Blog posts are sometimes published long after they are written to maintain privacy.

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