This picture of my office white board represents over half a year of work. Many of those countless hours were spent brainstorming and writing and editing for what started out as a tiny seedling of an idea back in May and grew into an entire series complete with thirty-one blog posts (including this one) and thirty Facebook videos.
But The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP series wasn’t only about words and videos. It was about offering encouragement to anyone who struggles with reaching goals. It was about proving to myself (and therefore, to you) that progress and self-growth are indeed possible. Because as much as I was tempted to fall in to my old habit of starting something new with fresh motivation and energy only to wind up quitting, I didn’t. I stayed with it. And as a reward, I did accomplish goals, I did move out of the stale comfort zone that I had allowed myself to sink into, and I did learn and grow more than I had in years.
I learned that I am capable of more than I thought, but discovering those capabilities requires enough courage and confidence to test the borders of the mundane and the mechanical. Growth doesn’t come from feeding new goals with stagnant routines. It is born out of determination and the decision to try something different.
During the months and months that I struggled to make progress on my novel manuscript, I would repeatedly write word count goals on my calendar only to watch them slip away unattained. It wasn’t until I dared to share my journey on an author Facebook page and a blog and weekly video updates (thereby making myself accountable to others) that I started to see real progress. By reaching outside of my predetermined limits, I finally found the fortitude to move forward.
Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes patience and perseverance and practice. It takes humility to accept that although small steps are best, they equal slow progress. When I recorded the first Facebook video in the series, I knew it wouldn’t be great. I’ve never been fond of public speaking (nor any good at it) and although there was no live audience, I still got nervous and anxious and worried about what I would say.
But I pushed through thinking it would get easier after a few weeks. Not so much. It took me about twenty-six weeks to see minor improvement, and even then, my level of discomfort only went from complete to mild. Small steps, slow progress. The key is to keep going, to look back one day and see that all those small steps actually added up to one giant leap.
The point I’m trying to make, my dear friends, is the same today as it was thirty weeks ago: progress is possible but we must be purposeful in order to make it happen. We must take the time to know ourselves. To understand our mindsets and motivations. To clearly define our big dreams and goals and callings. To identify the obstacles that tend to hold us back, as well as the supporters that will help us up when we fall.
It’s important to know these things and how they impact you, so that if your life has been taken over by others, you can learn to Build Balanced Boundaries. Or if it’s simply a matter of complacency, you can get out of that comfort zone by Daring to Do Different. Or if you’re like me, you can find a way to Quit Quitting on yourself.
Whatever it is that keeps you from accomplishing the things you want to do or growing into the person you want to be or living the life you want to live, I encourage you to be intentional in identifying it (What is it?), diligent in dissecting it (What is it made of? Where did it come from?), and mindful in manipulating it (What can you learn from it? How can you grow from it?). That is the recipe for self-knowledge. That is the path toward personal development. That is the definition of a purposeful work-in-progress.