A friend recently pointed out a simple but profound truth – “you cannot do step 19 without doing step 1”. It seems a bit of a “like, ‘duh'” statement, but there’s more power in it than you may realise. Self-improvement is a journey, not a destination. We often imagine this perfect state where we’re able to run a marathon under 4 hours, or play a Rachmaninov Piano Concerto in Carnegie Hall or get to some perceived idealized weight, but the truth is that those states are simply markers on a much larger timescale. There are markers all along the way to those states and there are markers after that state too. By fixating on one particular state, you’re doing yourself an injustice. Either you’re limiting yourself, because you’d actually be able to do even more than what you envisioned, or you’re setting yourself up for failure, because your expectations, even though potentially attainable, are unrealistic in the timeframe you’ve envisaged.
But if you view self-improvement as a journey of an infinite amount of steps, success is simply moving a step forward. The step may not be as big or as small as you thought, but it’s a step and you can then recalibrate your step size for the next one. It also may not have been exactly in the right direction, but again, for the next one you can realign yourself to be facing closer to your target. After a number of steps, you’ll realise that you’re bounding along with great momentum, something you couldn’t have imagined a few steps back.
Lao Tzu was wise: “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.