Another little story about getting started on a Big Goal and then I'll talk about something else.
A while back, my daughter, a violist who seeks to perform with a major orchestra, who was moving away from her friends at the time, who had been experiencing crappy luck with auditions, who was worried about money, and who was exhausted after a busy season teaching very small children to play the violin told me she'd had it. "I don't even practice anymore," she said.
The "anymore" referred to days, thankfully, and not months.
Big dreams aside, active musicians, like all artists, must practice every day to not only hone their skills but to stay connected to themselves. I suggested an approach to help her hop back on the horse and a couple of weeks later she was out of her funk.
I would like to take credit for the suggestion but it was offered to me by my sister-in-law Christine, after our youngest was born and I had fallen into a stretch of such fatigue, I actually dozed in the shower, twice. I spent all of my time looking forward to bedtime and was on the edge of tears constantly. If it wasn't post-partum depression at that moment, it promised to develop into one.
At the time, Christine was a personal trainer or in the process of becoming one. "Why aren't you exercising?" she asked.
"I'm planning to," I said.
"If it were your child who needed it, you'd find a way. It's just as important for your own health."
But it was hard, I explained, to be up at night with the baby, taking care of the other three, feeding everyone, getting them out the door to school, etc. The thought of putting on workout clothes and lifting weights just made me feel guilty and irritable.
"So," I said, "I will when there's time."
Tell a fitness zealot something like that and they will respond by offering you a solution that you can have in place before dinner.
"Do what I do," she said. "On days when I feel gross or tired or just not into exercising, I give myself five minutes. That's all. That's enough. I figure if I go through the prep to do something and want to quit after five minutes, it's fine. I just make it a goal to start. I have yet to not finish my workout."
I took her advice. Five minutes a day became ten, then twenty, then thirty. Days became weeks and it's now been over a decade since I wondered how to fit this into my life.
We all do this, become enamored of a goal that we picture in its finished form. Eventually we think about the work that's required to get there and if that isn't overwhelming enough, the distance between then and now is defeating. We don't abandon the goal, we just don't start.
My Big Goal of finding an agent requires a series of tasks - readying a manuscript, submitting and editing it and starting all over again. It will take great patience and perseverance and there are times when I'd rather do laundry. Or load the dishwasher. Or call Bank of America for any reason. I use the five minute approach to get to the page, but I've modified it in that I quit after five minutes whether I want to or not. Very soon my eagerness to do more takes over, and my project and I trot off on our horse together.
Identify the tiny little attainable goals that comprise the larger ones, pick one and resolve to give it five minutes every single day. You'll train yourself to stay on course, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment in spite of yourself - knowing it's more, and not less, that you can accomplish.
To our minds and our bodies and more important, to our self-respect, it's critical to feel we're moving toward something. The goal of starting, rather than finishing, works.
Five minutes. You can do anything for five minutes, and more.