“While it can be tempting to rely on one tried-and-true strategy for facing life’s challenges, it’s better to match the method with the current need.”
Nearing the end of a long midsummer run, I notice I’m at the bottom of yet another hill. My shoulders droop. My body sags. It’s not a particularly steep climb, but it’s a long one. Temptation beckons: I could just walk the rest of the way home. Yet my goal was to hit the four-mile mark.
Taking a deep breath and trotting on, it occurs to me that sometimes it helps to take just one more step. Twelve-step programs popularized the “One Day at a Time” motto, which is highly effective when confronting addiction and other struggles. Other times, it’s more helpful to take the long view. Visualizing myself cresting the peak of that hill might just do the trick. One size, of course, doesn’t always fit all.
Both strategies came in handy while writing my book, Full Heart Living. Often, simply taking one next step was exactly what I needed to do. Meet with a writing coach. Write a sentence. Form a paragraph. Take a class. Develop an outline. Craft some chapters. Rewrite. Design the cover. Rewrite. Organize a focus group. Rewrite. Complete one task. Move on to the next.
Sometimes, however, focusing too much on the nitty-gritty overwhelmed me. How would I ever accomplish all that needed doing? If I gave in to the belief that it was too daunting, I might have given up. At those times, keeping the larger view in mind was more useful. Who knows where the urge originated, but I felt compelled to write the book. It welled up continuously and wouldn’t go away. It was as though I couldn’t not write it. I wanted to get a message out there—that there are actions we can take that help us feel better and do more good in the world—which I thought had the potential to help people.
To write a whole book requires spending a good amount of time alone. Even as an introvert, too much time on my own can leave me feeling bug-eyed and depleted. Plus, some sections of the book required massive, multiple rewrites. The question, “You mean I still don’t have it right?” rang in my head more than once.
In the final months of writing, my editor and I undertook the painstaking process of going through every chapter with a fine-toothed comb. During that time, while visiting my parents in Florida, I remember whining to my dad, “Every word is agony!” When feeling overwhelmed, lonely, and exhausted, focusing too closely on the next step felt like drudgery. Instead, picturing the final result—a complete manuscript I could be proud of—helped me maintain momentum.
While it can be tempting to rely on one tried-and-true strategy for facing life’s challenges, it’s better to match the method with the current need. Running up that final hill last week took a combination of both ideas. When one step at a time felt laborious, I imagined the accomplishment I’d feel once I made it. When that didn’t work, I simply placed one foot in front of the other. Another incentive? The idea of writing this post.
TODAY’S CONVERSATION SPARKS
Have a conversation with a loved one in which both of you explore the following questions. Listen deeply and speak from the heart.
- What dream have you set aside because it seemed too daunting?
- What strategies might help you persevere?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tom Glaser is a Minneapolis-based psychologist, life coach, speaker, and author of Full Heart Living: Conversations with the Happiest People I Know. He just released the first of three mini-documentaries on Resilience Following Trauma, and a game based on his first book, “Full Heart Living Conversation Sparks,” will be available this fall.