Planning Early

My wife and I are going to have some home improvement work done starting in May.  Nothing major, just carpet, floors and interior painting.  It’s going to be nice to have that all done, but what’s really proven helpful has been to start the planning process early.

We started planning this way back in February.  There have been several things to coordinate such as:

  • Getting on the schedules of the people that will be doing the work
  • Selecting colors, patterns, etc.
  • Ordering fixtures and materials
  • Arranging lodging for ourselves and our pets for the time we can’t be in the house
  • Packing things up that we’ll have to get out of the house
  • Saving up to pay cash for the improvements

Starting this project early allows us to manage it with significantly less stress than if we started later.  If we waited until the last minute to get started, we would have had a greater likelihood that contractors would already have full schedules, materials wouldn’t make it in time, or a number of other setbacks that could have been avoided if we just had more time.

If you have a project or task on your horizon, I’d suggest to start it early versus waiting until the last minute.  For the cost of your time (which you’ll have a lot more of early on) you can eliminate unnecessary stress and actually enjoy the process.

Small Beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin […]”   ~Zechariah 4:10

The first stages of a new venture always seem small.  Whether it’s getting in shape, building and growing a business, pursuing an educational goal, building a new house, learning a new skill, or any number of big worthy pursuits, the initial steps are small and feel insignificant when compared to the overall goal.  However, it’s important not to poo-poo this stage in the process, because from small, seemingly insignificant beginnings are where great things start.

Very rarely (actually never, in my experience!) does a big goal start out as a great success in the early stages.  Significant results come slow initially, and require consistent effort over time… lots of time!  This is where people can feel like they aren’t making progress, become frustrated, and give up on their goal during the small beginnings. 

For this reason, it’s important to be aware that our big goals will grow from small beginnings, so we shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed by them.  Small beginnings should be an expected, and even welcomed, part of the pursuit of our goals.

Is there a goal you’ve recently started that you’re feeling frustrated by?  Does the lack of perceived progress leave you considering giving up on your goal?  If so, I encourage you to look at this time as the small beginnings of your larger goal; much like the progress of the growth of a large oak tree.  Would you be frustrated with an oak that was only a few inches tall after a year?  Out of frustration, would you pull that young oak out of the ground and throw it away because it wasn’t a full-grown mature oak after such a short time?  Of course not!

Then why would we do that with our goals?

Start At Disaster

I’ve been playing the electric bass for 3 years now, and while I know a whole lot more than I did 3 years ago, I’m acutely aware that I have a lot more to learn.

When I listen to professional bass players, or those who have put in years of effort, I’m amazed at the skill and mastery they possess.  To me, their playing looks effortless, and reminds me how far I still have to go.  Yet their skill also reminds me that every master was once a disaster.

I know for certain that the best bass players didn’t start out that way.  When they first picked up a bass for the first time, they were likely a disaster… just like I was!  They didn’t stay there however.  They put in the effort to eventually become a master at their craft.

I think that’s cool.  Mastery isn’t the starting point, disaster is.  When we begin something new, we’re not supposed to be any good at it.  You know why?  BECAUSE IT’S NEW!

It’s only when we continuously learn about our chosen craft and apply what we’ve learned, that we’re on our way toward mastery.  And if we continue this process, we are, by definition, a success:

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal.”  ~Earl Nightingale

So, embrace the disaster that you’re sure to be at the beginning of your next new undertaking.  For it’s the starting point on your journey toward mastery.

Getting A New Perspective

I was starting to get stressed.  Just days away from going on vacation, I still had a big task I needed to complete at work before I left, and it didn’t feel like I was going to get done in time.

Four days before vacation, a colleague who is working on the same project stopped by to see how it was going.  I told him that I didn’t think I’d’ be able to finish my piece of the project before I left.  As I told him about what I had left to do, I could see he was thinking.

After I was done describing what I believed needed to be done, he started asking about what absolutely had to be done at this stage of the project.  As we talked through it, I realized my focus was placed too far out for this stage of the project.  We didn’t need a 100% finished product; we just needed some basic functionality that could be delivered to the end users as a first iteration.

With this new perspective, I realized that I’d easily be able to deliver my portion of the project before I left for vacation.  In fact, I was able to deliver with 2 days to spare!

I’m so thankful my colleague came by and gave me a different perspective.  Our conversation and his suggestions shifted my focus toward what needed to be done at a specific stage in the project, rather than what needed to be delivered as a finished product.

Are you stuck in a false mindset or stressing about how to get something done?  I suggest talking to a friend, colleague or someone else who can give you a new perspective on your situation.  You might just realize that you’re stressing out for no reason.