A big dream is a great leap from wherever you are now. If you try to clear that gap in one terrific long jump, chances are you’re going to take a big pratfall.
I want to write a book; a great leap from where I am now. A few weeks ago I read Stephen King’s On Writing, and decided to give up something that was working for me, namely this blog, in order to work on something that is at least two quantum leaps from where I am now, i.e., writing a novel.
So instead of writing a good 300 words a day, I had one day where I wrote 1000 words, and lots of days of nothing. My confidence went from about a six out of ten to zero.
I tend to bite off more than I can chew. Instead of eating the elephant one bite at a time, I make like a python and try to eat the whole thing at once. When it doesn’t work I don’t change my strategy, I look for another elephant.
That at least has been my modus operandi for the first half of my life. It hasn’t worked.
So I’m back to what was working for me: write one coherent 250 word essay each working day. And on top of that, I’m now going to add this “dream step:” write 250 words of dialogue each day. Once I can consistently achieve both, I’ll take another dream step.
The python strategy is for comics books, where Peter Parker can get bitten by an atomic spider and turn into Spiderman. Michael Phelps didn’t get bit by a spider, or struck by lightning. He just followed a careful plan of small wins that eventually led to 22 Olympic medals.
Dream steps are the stairway to heaven.
Persistence comes of our belief that we will accomplish what we’ve set out to do. How do we build that belief if we don’t already have it? Where does that belief come from in those that do have it?
I remember reading in Duhigg’s The Power of Habit about Michael Phelps. His coach, Bob Bowman, believed the key to winning was building the right routines. Routines built of small wins; small wins that built preparedness, confidence, and a sense of calm; which in turn led to a series of record setting victories on one of the world’s biggest stages: the Olympics.
My secret dream since college has been “to be a writer.” But as soon as I turn my thoughts from “practicing writing” to “being a writer” I’m a deer in the headlights. It was the same way with “practicing mathematics” versus “being a mathematician.” One perspective keeps my pencil moving, the other keeps me from even getting started.
I thought writing a 250 word essay every day would be easy. It isn’t.
“Being a writer” isn’t a small win. In fact it isn’t even well defined. Does writing this essay make me a writer? Or writing a book that never gets published? Or writing an article for a newspaper or magazine? It’s too vague; and “Being a writer” focuses on identity rather than practice.
Obviously I’m no expert on this matter. But I suspect the key is to have a well defined and very specific routine that leads to the behavior required to produce the desired outcome. For example if you, like me, are interested in writing essays here is “How to Write an Essay – 10 Easy Steps.”
How about you? Do you struggle with persistence? Or are you one of those who seem able to beat down any obstacle that stands in your way? Do you understand where your persistence comes from? Please share your thoughts with me.
Why do you persist in your practice? What do you do when you get discouraged? How do you make yourself do it again when everything in you says “No mas!”?
I am trying to learn the answers to these questions. So please share your experience with me.
It is easier to quit when I lose sight of what I’m trying to accomplish, or lose faith that I can accomplish it, or lose the expectation that my practice will bear fruit.
So to persist, I need to continually revisit and sharpen the vision or description of the expected results of my practice in all its blossoming glory.
I need to carve my practice into a series of small achievable steps of gradually increasing levels of difficulty, with well defined milestones along the way. These milestones are the “small wins” that will build my confidence and my expectation of future success.
I need to document these wins, so I can go back and look at them, and remind myself when I’m discouraged that I have succeeded in the past.
I need to surround myself with like minded individuals, who share in these experiences, who share their encouragement, with a mutual expectation of success.
I need a mentor who is a model of practice, persistence, and who has already accomplished what I want to achieve.