Learning to go slow has always been an issue for me. I took as many AP courses as possible in high school, I finished my undergrad in three years, and I jumped into pharmacy school after taking more science classes in order to hit the ground running.
When I have a goal, a clear path, and I feel that that goal is within my capabilities, I tend to move full steam ahead. When goals seem a little too fuzzy or the path is windy and covered in brush and brambles, I usually take a seat and admire the scenery. It may look nice, but I’m not moving anywhere.
I operate on two ends of a spectrum and I am always working to try and get a little closer to the middle. Those latter times when I want to move but can’t seem to figure out how have been a big part of my life the past few months and it’s through learning to break things down into smaller pieces that I’ve been able to clear the brush and continue walking a path towards bigger and better things.
I want to share two examples of my biggest struggles so far this year. Both were big obstacles and required me to take a step back in order to even begin to conquer them. Sometimes it is easier to see the full picture when you remove yourself from the middle. I want to emphasize that during both of these I didn’t feel like the things I was doing were bringing me any closer to an outcome I wanted, but I knew that as long as I continued breaking them down and doing what needed to be done, eventually I would see the fruits of my labor.
When I moved to Chicago I decided I wanted to do something different. Prior to the move I had worked in admin, which I loved as a detail-oriented, Type A person, but there’s only so far you can go creating reports and compiling folders. I decided to take my love of fitness and make it more of a career. The thought seemed daunting as I realized I would have to get certified, find clients, and try to make a living.
I also wanted to grow this blog and fulfill another passion of mine which was writing. My ideal job was a blend of fitness and writing, but I had no idea where to start. I had my fair share of feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to go next, but I laid out what I knew I had to accomplish in smaller, more achievable steps.
- Get certified as a personal trainer
- Find a job
- Market myself to gain potential clients
- Research freelance writing (structure, payment, how to find opportunities, etc.)
- Send out writing pitches/make contacts
I was able to look at each action item on my list and tackle one thing at a time. This made the process much less overwhelming and soon I was able to start seeing results. I am still in the process of reaching for these goals through gaining more clients and working with more writing opportunities, but whenever I feel like it may be too much, I simply refer to the above list or make a new one in order to keep things manageable.
This summer was a tough time for my marriage. I wrote about it briefly, but a majority of the struggle was behind the scenes. There were days when it was definite that we were separating and were looking at apartments and then there were days that felt like everything was going to be ok. I had no idea what each day would bring as Neil and I both struggled to find what was best for ourselves individually and as a couple.
Similar to the career change, I spent some time breaking things down. It is always about doing the next right thing and I needed to keep that in mind each day.
- Take appropriate therapeutic actions (counseling, increased communication, individual support groups, etc.)
- Just get up—some days it was a struggle to even get out of bed. I didn’t know what I should be doing or how I was feeling. On those days I did the best I could. I got up. I remembered to eat. Sometimes I showered. I showed up for work even though it was hard. I got through the day.
- Take care of myself
- Remember to feel. Stop fighting.
In both of these situations I could have taken a seat. I could have sat paralyzed in my fear and anxiety and taken the easy way out. I could have settled into an admin job that I was familiar with even though my passions and my potential lay outside that role. I could have stopped fighting for my marriage when things seemed too hard and too painful.
I made the decision to take what seemed like insurmountable tasks and shatter them into a million actionable pieces. I found that with each tiny piece I did, the more I accomplished. The more I accomplished, the closer I came to my goal.
I’m still not finished—there are still more clients to be trained, more pieces to write (both here and there), and more care to be put into a marriage that just came back from the edge—but I know that with each small step comes a big improvement in my life.
- How do you tackle big obstacles?
- What things in life have you had to work through?
Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.