Progress Comes Faster Than Expected

When you meet someone who is very knowledgeable about a topic or skilled at an activity, it’s often overwhelming to think about the distance between where you’re at now and where they seem to be. For example, if you struggle to exercise regularly (or at all), you might look at someone who runs 5k every morning as if they were an alien with six heads. It seems like they’re worlds away from you, like closing that gap is impossibly large. This is especially true if they’re doing something that you aspire to do, but you feel like you’ve tried in the past and failed.

You’d be amazed at how quickly that gap closes when you start doing the thing. Starting is the hardest part, as you likely already know. Making a commitment—written, with a friend, with a purchase, or with a sign-up—can help overcome the difficulty in starting.

I’ve been keeping this vague so far because the examples I’ve seen in my own life are extremely different from one another. In all cases though, the first feeling was “I’ll never get to that point” and the result was that I got closer than I ever would have imagined, with less effort than I expected.

Some examples: A (mostly) vegetarian diet was something I could barely comprehend before my vegetarian girlfriend moved in, and it has taken very little adjustment for me to become accustomed to it—and to make interesting vegetarian meals! When I started running last summer, with the goal of finishing a 5k run, in my mind a triathlon was something that only professional athletes did. Now, I’m planning to learn to swim—properly, as opposed to my current “put me in a pool and I won’t drown”—and I’m aiming to do a triathlon in the coming years. Switching gears completely—when I started listening to heavy metal after starting to play drums, the songs that screaming vocals in them bothered me. Why would anyone want to hear screaming? And yet, a few years later, during a chorus of a metal song with a non-screaming singer, I found myself thinking that the song was lacking a certain kind of low, fierce scream to get the energy level where it needed to be. There are countless other examples in my life of times when something that seemed far away was actually much closer than I thought.

Starting is the hardest part, and starting something new or different requires commitment. Once the commitment is made, you may be surprised at how every small step closes the gap between you and the person you thought you could never be—and it doesn’t take that many steps until you realize the gap is small enough to step over.

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