I am a creature of habit.
I like the clockwork synchronicity of activities falling into place. I like the way I pull my chair out from my desk at 8:00 AM and the way I lift my heels for a stretch at 9:45 AM. I like the ding on my phone’s calendar reminding me of the plans I made two months ago for today.
I enjoy writing down tasks and listing down goals for the satisfaction of feeling the ballpoint pen glide across the paper—one straight line striking through a clump of words that held so much potential. Now, I release them into reality. The work is never finished, but it grows with each tick of the box, with each published post, podcast, or video.
I like how victories sometimes clothe themselves in monotonous, mundane endeavors and take up the name Routine. I like the big power of small wins.
But even then, not all days are the same.
The Zero to Hero Myth
The thing about overnight successes is that they rarely happen overnight. It’s the build-up of the day-to-day grind and hard work. What we see on the dais is the result of what happened behind the curtains. But no one ever talks about that.
When I decided to start a blog, I asked myself, “How hard could it be?” It turns out it’s way more challenging than anything I had anticipated.
For anyone trying to build something from scratch, most days are harder than others. Every day, we wake up and ask ourselves if we’re closer to the destination, and the answer isn’t always what we want to hear.
My advice? I have four:
1. Don’t hyper-fixate on the bigger picture. I know what you’re thinking, this is rubbish advice. I might even be contradicting myself right now but hear me out. You need the bigger picture. You need a goal to strive towards to fuel the plans you’re making in the present. But the bigger picture doesn’t always have to be a blinding visage. Sometimes, the best it can be is a blurry reality in the making—something you can reach out to but not quite grasp yet. When you’re only starting out, fixating on the destination will only strain you. Don’t lose sight of the goal, but it doesn’t hurt to learn to appreciate everyday things.
2. Small wins aren’t so small after all. There may be a debate about who the title of World’s Smartest Person Ever rightfully belongs to, but for this article’s sake, we’ll give the crown to Aristotle, who said, “Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” According to Harvard Professor and author Teresa Amabile, the magic is in the small, incremental wins.
The science behind small wins is quite simple. Whether they’re giant leaps or baby steps, every achievement activates the same reward circuitry wired in our brains. In other words, the small wins pave the way for the big wins.
Using the SMART method of setting goals, you can make room for incremental improvements that will serve you in the long run.
3. Constantly trying to beat the competition will burn you out. There will always be someone else on the playing field, whether you’re a newcomer or an old-timer. The question isn’t, “Will there be competition?” The question is, “Who will you compete with?” Instead of getting sucked in someone else’s game, play against the version of yourself from yesterday and be better today.
4. Don’t run on someone else’s timeline for your dreams. In a previous article, I talk about being stuck and the feeling of success being something that just isn’t meant for you. Here’s what I wrote: Whenever you think of what you want to become in light of how much you want to prove to other people, you swap long-term growth for short-term gratification. In the long run, everything you’ve built will come crashing down because no outward effort towards validation is going to make up for real self-acceptance. Going at your own rate does not mean you are falling behind. For me, the only timeline that matters is the one God has prepared. How about you? Whose timeline is important to you?
The things that make us great aren’t the strengths we’re born with. It’s what comes of it.
It’s the things we choose to sit down with for hours and hours on, sometimes to no avail. But we keep going anyway. We chip away at the marble until we find something that resembles a breakthrough. It could be a sentence that flows like milk from the rock or the trappings of a Giaconda smile. Either way, success comes from the willingness to dedicate oneself to the work.