My default setting is to dive deep into a project – whether it be a boulder problem or creative endeavor – and not stop until I’m successful. I’ll devote hours, days, weeks, months to focus on that one thing. You could call me dedicated, stubborn, or even obsessed, and those are all accurate descriptions.
But since I’ve been in Colorado, I’ve been doing things a little differently. And just recently I’ve started to notice the value in slow and steady progress – how you can achieve improvement while barely even noticing the change.
The other day, I was out at a crag I’d been to only once before, back when I was just beginning to spend more time sport climbing. That day I did my first outdoor lead in Colorado, an easy 5.6. I vividly remember getting in my head and freaking out the whole way up. Even though the climb was well within my physical abilities, I was not yet comfortable leading.
Now, nearly 6 months later, I led a 5.10 at the same crag. I still got in my head and still freaked out several times on the way up, but, overall, I was much less scared than when I led that 5.6.
It turns out that months of practice working on the mental aspects of leading had paid off. And that realization is just as satisfying as finishing a boulder problem that I’ve devoted myself to day in and day out.
I’ve had the same progress with running. At the beginning of the year, I started running for the first time ever in my life, and it sucked.
And it continued to suck. It never seemed to get better, and I never seemed to get better at it, yet I kept doing it.
Then I realized that I had gone from barely being able to run a mile to regularly running 2.5 miles without much trouble. And for an avowed non-runner like me, that is pretty amazing. (In fact, I actually might even call myself a runner now.)
I probably won’t ever give up my tendency to focus obsessively on a project, but over the last few months, I have learned to appreciate the satisfaction of slow and steady progress, and it’s always a good reminder to look back on where you’ve been – because you’ll often be surprised at how far you’ve actually come.