“Nothing great is ever easy”

— Captain Webb, first man to swim the English Channel

 

This week I’d like to talk about how the tough keep going when the going gets tough, when there seem to be just too many steps in the journey, or oarstrokes in the voyage.

Something I’ve learned (although I still have to remind myself of it on a frequent basis!) is that it really helps to keep your focus small and close. Just do the next thing on your list.

Of course you need to know where you’re going. That’s why you have a vision.

And of course you need to have a plan – I find a 90-day plan works best for most projects, as too many external changes are likely to happen if you plan any further ahead, so you’ll end up having to re-do the plan anyway if you go out longer than three months. (I prefer to say 90 days rather than 3 months, because it reminds me that every single day counts.)

So having a grand vision and a 90-day plan help you get the overall direction mapped out.

But once those are done, put them aside and just look at Day 1, Task 1. And do that.

Do it with all your attention, love and mindfulness. And when it’s finished (and not before!) look to see what Task 2 is. And set about doing that one equally single-mindedly. And just keep putting one foot in front of the other in that way.

Don’t overwhelm yourself with thoughts of all the things that come after it. That way lies insanity – or at least, a major slump in motivation. I know – I made that mistake on the Atlantic. I looked at 3,000 miles of rowing, and unsurprisingly felt overwhelmed. I started skipping shifts, thinking “I can always make up for it later”. But skipping shifts caused damage much greater than the missed hours of rowing – it was the message I was giving myself that “I am the kind of person who lacks discipline”. Once I realised I had to just keep showing up and sticking my oars in the water, 12 hours a day, motivated or not, life got an awful lot easier.

The world needs huge change, and it needs courageous, visionary change agents to manifest that. But for the change agents themselves, that prospect can be, frankly, terrifying.

Think of it as an elegant dance between focusing on what needs to be done right this moment, with occasional dashes to the top of the mountain to remind yourself of where you’re going, and why you’re going there. Take your time, appreciating the smallness of your focus, relishing your attention to detail. By infusing every tiny task with love and quality, the end result can’t help but be magnificent.

Q: What do you think? Have you tried this approach? Did it work? Or maybe not?! Please share your thoughts in the comments.

And a HUGE apology to all those lovely people who commented on the last two blog posts. For some reason best known to itself, my blog software went from letting me know when people comment, to not letting me know. So when I didn’t get any notifications, I assumed you’d all stopped loving me. 🙁 And was then delighted when I logged on to find I had loads of comments! 🙂 It’s taking me a bit of time to work through them, but I will reply to them all. Thanks for your patience!

 

 

 

25 Comments

  • Roz; I would like to suggest that you mention this website on your weekly messages, rather than rozsavage.com which hasn’t any entry since May 2014 and that you mention rozsavaagecoaching.com on that site.

    Blissfully.

  • Brilliant advice Roz, I have a similar method of just looking at a small section of a major project. I find a spreadsheet to help plan at the start is often a great help. Recently I have been taking stage photos with the time and date stamp switched on, easy and quick way of recording progress. When these are reviewed it gives me encouragement.

    Keep up the bloggs!

    – Peter

  • Thanks for the reminder Roz. I have three months to go to finish my degree after eight years work. I’ve worked as you suggest for years but am finding it so hard to get over the line. Mental fatigue big time.
    I think I’ll split up the remaining work in to tiny chunks and just concentrate on each bit at a time.
    Any advice on how you coped with the final few miles of your trips when you’d totally had enough would be appreciated.
    Regards
    John

    • Hi John. Well done you, for toughing it out for so long!

      What worked for me was picturing a really HUGE celebration when I finally reached my goal. I’d picture the first hot shower, the first cold beer, the first hug.

      I realise that may not translate into finishing a degree, but I’m sure you can think of some suitable way of celebrating, involving those you love.

      And just imagine what the sense of achievement will be like! The harder you’ve struggled to achieve your goal, the greater the sense of achievement. So yours will be epic!!

      Very best of luck with the final stretch. You are so nearly there now!

      This may inspire you – one of my favourite quotes from “The Alchemist”: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.’

  • Your bit about skipping shifts reminds me of the title of your book – Stop Drifting, Start Rowing. The phrase has become one my husband likes to use to remind me to focus – great imagery as we think of Sarah Outen (sarahouten.com) taking one stroke at a time across the Atlantic, sometimes when the weather is not the most favorable.

    • Glad that phrase is proving helpful! I’m following Sarah too – wishing her all best. Sorry to hear that Sonya Baumstein’s first attempt on the Pacific wasn’t successful – we exchanged emails this morning, and she seems to be coping really well.

  • This could not be more timely for me. I’m trying to embark on a project of my own, a graphic novel. I have the vision, a basic idea, but when I sit down at the drawing table, I freak out. I can’t believe how difficult the first five pages can be. I always feel that that will be the way I draw people in, but it’s such an important part of the task, that it leaves me daunted.
    It actually feels like trying to cross an ocean.
    I’m going to try this 90 day plan. Map it out, figure out what I need to do each day, rather than look at the whole project. I’m curious to see where I will be in three months time. Thank you again, Ms. Savage , for this insight!
    Regards, Everett

    • You’re very welcome! When I wrote the first draft of my last book, I set myself a target wordcount for each day, and set it up in an Excel spreadsheet showing what the cumulative total would be if I met my targets on a daily basis. I found it really motivating – so motivating, in fact, that every day I exceeded my target!

  • Thank you, Roz! Appreciating each step along the way is SO IMPORTANT! It’s easy to think we’ll be happy when we finally get to our destination. But life is happening NOW–not in a distant future…

  • What great advice for me right now! I can so relate to how motivated or not you feel. You just have to keep going going one foot, one task, at a time. I am about to attempt a summit on Mt Elbrus. I know it is going to be hard and this is just what I needed to hear. Thank you so much Roz.

    • Good for you, Nancy! What an amazing adventure! I hope you return from the mountain safe, successful, and happy.

  • Hi Roz,
    Yes you were right aboput the Mercury retrograde!! However , by June 27th,thingsare looking better for you so Mercury will cross the retrograde 3 times in that period, so you can meet these issues, rework them, and resolve them Yi Ha

    Hune 17th Mercury sextile (co-operate with Saturn) so put mind to work and take care of the detail, mental disciplinee assy as problems become clearer, but need adjustment later on.
    Take care and enjoy the ride

    Adrian
    Central Scotland
    Ps I like the new career direction – pretty good eh.

    • Sigh. I do wish Mercury would calm down and cooperate! 🙂

      And yes, loving the new direction, although really it’s the same direction as before, just a different platform.

  • Maybe I’ll use your metaphor of oarstrokes next time someone asks me how I do something, from building a house to a long sea voyage. I always say it’s like eating an elephant, “One bite at a time”
    Thanks for the reminder of the lesson. I do still get frustrated at progress sometimes, but I keep plugging along and everything works out in the end. Thanks so much for your inspiration!

    • There’s so much to be said for sheer bloody-mindedness and refusing to give up. And I love that metaphor of the elephant – although probably not very PC to be eating endangered species! 🙂

  • Take a tip from the original Henry Ford who really put America on wheels. He never went to college and dropped out of school at an early age….he succeeded by always associating with people smarter than him…such was his wisdom. He had his goals, but not all the answers so he would go to others for their knowledge in solving problems when he needed solutions……never losing sight of his goals. This is the very simple method he used to become a success….never forgetting that a success becomes that way by doing the things that failures don’t want to do. Worked for me.

    • Well said, Dick. I especially like that phrase: “success becomes that way by doing the things that failures don’t want to do” – nice one!

  • ‘Happiness is the pursuit of achievable goals’
    Not my words but ones I read many years ago which have always had truth for me.

    • A great motto – and I’m not sure the goals even have to be achievable. Sometimes just the pursuit is enough to generate a sense of progress and mastery. Having said that, I wouldn’t want to leave the crossing of an ocean half-achieved. 🙂

  • Hi Roz – Indecision or Doubt ? Uncertainty about the truth or reality of anything, unable to make that decision ? Perhaps use a diffuser in the room with Coriander, Frankincense and Ylang Ylang, may help balance the doubtfulness, also an aphrodisiac so beware! ha ha . Iron Pyrite (fools gold) blocks out negative energy and brings positivity to overcome inertia and is useful when planning concepts or just making up ones mind – so put it on one’s desk, round one’s neck in a pouch or weven under one’s pillow – Sorted eh!

  • I love reading your blog and your insights. I also enjoy reading other’s comments/reactions (you have collected a wise group of followers!). This particular thread resonates with me. I have made a lot of changes in my life this year and, at times, the decisions and the actions seemed overwhelming. Like Roz, I often use my experiences at sea (where things seem clearer/simpler (I don’t mean easier) while still very challenging) to help me with my ” gear failure,” “wind changes,” and “squalls” at home.

    As an example, last summer I double-handed to Hawaii in a 36 foot boat with overpowered sails, no head, no galley, and an imperfect autopilot. After the first two days, the idea of an originally estimated 8 more days seemed daunting, overwhelming, exhausting. We broke it down into chunks, taking each 2 hour watch/day/navigational milestone as a goal. While the big picture of 2500 nm, a mai tai, and a shower were always the ultimate goal, the smaller accomplishments made it digestible and doable. I often reflect about Roz and how she had overcome so many challenges ALONE in a much SMALLER vessel.
    I was fixated on the 10-day estimate I had planted in my head. When we hit a wind hole for a few days, initially I was crushed. I had to reprogram and accept change, and again, break the adventure into smaller bits.

    Life doesn’t always go as planned (does it ever), so accept it, deal with it, and make adjustments. At home, the weather isn’t “trying to kill me” and, in perspective, things aren’t THAT bad/serious. If I just take a moment, and break it down, I can feel a sense of accomplishment at every step.

    Thanks Roz!

    • You are so very welcome, Shana, and thanks for sharing your challenges and learnings! So delighted that you are relishing the adventure of life!!

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