Monday, April 6, 2015

Taking One Step At a Time

Slowing down is no longer a part of our culture. We've become accustomed to doing things quickly and efficiently. While I'm not a proponent of wasting time, I'm starting to realize the importance of slowing down and paying attention to the step I'm taking right now.

There's so much I want to do. I want to spend time investing in my job and career. I want to get out of debt, get healthier, lose weight, spend more time painting and working on my blog. I want to spend time traveling, seeing friends, riding my horse, shooting photos, and more.

If I try to do all of those things at once (which usually happens), I'll burn out. Even if I'm doing things I love, if I'm not taking each step slowly and deliberately, I can run myself into the ground. Not good.

Lately, when I try focusing on achieving my goals, I feel like I can't gain any traction. As soon as I start working on getting myself healthy, I end up spending more money than I want to. If I shift my focus to getting out of debt, my health declines. Clearly something isn't working.

There's got to be a way to balance everything and still succeed in the end. I did learn, though, (from listening to Dave Ramsey for the past 3 years), that a person can't pay off debt and build wealth at the same time and gain much traction. One has to slow down and do one thing at a time. He's even laid out 7 'Baby Steps' to help his listeners and readers stay on track. This principle has helped me with staying on a budget and getting rid of my credit card debt (for the first time in my life). While I still have additional debt to pay down (and a ways to go), what if I applied this same principle to the other areas of my life?

Focusing on what I have to do right now, while embracing and enjoying it, is the only way I'm going to achieve my goals, whether they be heath, career, financial, creative, or spiritual.

When it comes to my creative goals, there's a lot of exciting things I want to accomplish. I want to create more art. I want to blog more. I want to start a video series. I want to open an online shop. But right now, I can't do all of those things. I have to start small. My first and foremost goal is to get through my 'Creative Constraint' project (serving up 100 paintings over the course of a year).

The truth is, when it comes to achieving a goal, I'll never be able to climb the mountain if I have too many other things distracting me from reaching my destination. It's survival. The only thing that matters is whether or not I make it out alive. In that moment, nothing else is important.

If I approach each goal one at a time head on, as if it's the most important thing in my life, there's no reason why I can't achieve it. But if I try to climb a mountain while distracted by all of the other 'shoulds' in my life, I'll never reach the pinnacle. Dave Ramsey always refers to the Momentum Theorem: "Focused intensity, over time, multiplied by God, equals unstoppable momentum".

It all comes down to priority. We have to ask ourselves what the most important thing in our lives is right now. Is it getting out of debt, or shedding the extra 20 pounds you've been carrying around for the past 15 years? Both are important, but what's more important to you right now? You can't work on both equally at the same time, because there's always going to be a give and take. If you choose one, let that be the priority first and foremost. Use the momentum theorem to knock it out, and move on to the next.

Once you've chosen the path you're going to walk down, you have to take it slow. Making changes in your life that are outside of your 'status quo' will never be easy to adjust to. But if that's all you're having to focus on, then you won't be as likely to be distracted by another path that presents itself to you.

Travel slowly enough to actually recognize and appreciate what it is you're going through at that moment. There will be a lot to take in, and at times you may get distracted, or feel like you're not gaining any traction, or that the path isn't leading you in the right direction. You must trust your intentions, and keep your focus on the goal. It's the only way to achieve what you truly desire.

Painting #13: A Snail's Journey (4x4 inches, watercolor)

Original Instagram Photo:

I noticed this little guy making its way across the pavement leading up to my building at work. I couldn't help but find wonder in how it clearly and deliberately took one step at a time; the evenness of its pattern bewildering to me. It was such a clear metaphor of how important it is to slow down and put one foot in front of the other. It may seem like it's taking forever to reach your destination, but if it's the one thing you're focusing on, you're bound to get there.