I was driving home the other day and realized something interesting. When driving, I never look at the road directly in front of me. I look farther off, to where I’m going. Thinking back to when I first started driving, though, I remembered looking at the road right in front of the vehicle and consciously making tiny corrections to keep in between the lines.
Do I still need to make tiny corrections to stay on course? Absolutely. Let go of the wheel and you’ll quickly see that you’re actually making small corrections all the time, even though you don’t know it*.
That’s the beauty of practice. As I got more confident with my driving, I was able to look ahead and still do what needs to be done to get there. And it’s a much more comfortable ride.
I’m sure you can see how this parallels with life. You have a dream, a goal, a destination. You’re headed there, and at first, you have to consciously check your progress and adjust on a day-to-day basis. Eventually, though, as you get better and more comfortable with the journey, you can keep your eyes on the goal and continue to head in that direction without having to consciously correct.
Two examples of this in my life were schoolwork and fitness.
When I started college, I had to check my grades regularly, double check my agenda, set aside time to do work, stay in good contact with professors, etc. Soon, though, I was headed towards my goal of graduation without having to check up on myself so frequently. I knew what needed to be done, and I did it. I was doing all the same things, but my focus had shifted to the long-term goal and my day-to-day actions followed.
With fitness, I’m in the consciously-make-corrections phase. I had set some new fitness goals and have been working towards them. At first, I tried eating extremely low carb. I tried going to a yoga class (see my post on that disaster here) and packing my lunch more. After a few weeks, I began to see what was working and what wasn’t, so I was able to make some changes. Then I made more changes a few weeks later. Now, I’ve increased the weight I’m lifting, feeling strong, have lost some weight, and feel better from eating a little more conscientiously. I haven’t reached my goals yet. In fact, I’d say I’m in the “beginner driver” stage of having to make conscious corrections. Slowly, though, I’ll be able to shift my focus from the day-to-day onto the long term.
Having this in mind is motivating. It means you probably won’t start out doing everything effectively when doing something new. It means eventually you’ll be able to focus on the long term, and the day-to-day will come naturally. It means whatever you’re trying to improve will feel weird at first, but later on it’ll feel more comfortable.
What goals are you in the “new driver” stage of? What life areas are you cruising along, comfortable and making unconscious corrections? Share in the comments below!
*Some ideas shared in this post came from thoughts I had while reading my latest love, The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness by Jeff Olson. So far, I highly recommend it!
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