Short term Tools and Long term Lodestars

So, my most recent post tackled the topic of recognizing that some of our progress we can only see over the long term. Today, I’ve decided to write about some of the specific measures we might use to assess our headway on matters not easily measureable.

 

As I’ve revealed in previous posts, I am a big fan of baby steps. Most of our growth occurs in fractions, but it is perceptible. And, if you’re anything like me, you have a personal radar that is continually scanning for performance indicators. How am I doing? What are they doing better? What did I do wrong or poorly? How might I improve my execution or results? What did they miscalculate that sent them careening into disaster and how might I avert this fate? That sort of scanning, those types of questions.  It’s usually a lot easier to assess other people’s problems and progress than it is to evaluate our own, but here are some fairly reliable indicators when we’re just not sure if we’re on the right track:

 

  1. Am I better at letting things roll off my back? Do I forget about irritations more promptly?
  2. Am I calmer about whatever it is? Does it take more to get me rattled?
  3. How easily can I laugh about this? Do I have better strategies for maintaining perspective?
  4. How secure do I feel in myself and my abilities, regardless of what happens?
  5. What can I feel grateful for? What blessings do I have right now?

 

These are big questions, best answered only by ourselves. But what they make possible is a more accurate gauge of where we are in the moment—short term assessments when we’re not in a position to employ longer term evaluation. What I mean by this is that sometimes, we find ourselves caught in an immediate, personal crisis where how we think about things and what we do today matters.

 

When I was in the thick of one such crisis, I couldn’t answer affirmatively to most of the above listed questions. It was terrible and I was at a real low point in my life. But, I was aware of these questions and used my desire to do whatever necessary in order to get to that place where I could answer “yes,” guide me through the thick of my confusion. I knew that, in theory, I believed in myself. I recognized that, in time, this crisis would pass and I would feel more calm about it. I trusted that, at some point in the not too distant future, I might even be able to let it go and no longer bother me. But this was much further down the road than where I was.

 

So, you know what I did? I faked it. Although I didn’t feel calm, I did my best to pretend I was cool and collected. My mantra was Fake It ‘Til You Make It. Inside, my agitation knew no bounds, and it was really hard to feel grateful for anything. I wasn’t sure just how much I believed in myself. And it was going to be a very, very long time before I could crack a smile, let alone laugh about anything related to this crisis. So, I did what I could: I faked it. I acted as if I could say yes to each of those questions. I searched out a (temporary) perspective that would be what I thought would get me to a place where I actually believed what I said. Faking may not be real, but the purpose it served was to provide a bridge to that place I so desperately needed to go.

 

And, you know what? I got there.

 

When everything was falling apart for me, I couldn’t see how in the world I was going to get through it. I was scared. I was angry. I couldn’t believe that all my assumptions had been wrong. And, I had no idea what to do. None. At that moment in my life, it was literally impossible for me to assess my long term progress or prospects; I was just trying to make it through the day. So I measured my improvement in baby steps. In fact, I made the conscious decision not to look at anything beyond the immediate day in front of me. It was the only way I could manage lest I shut down from overwhelm. The thing about this sort of faking is that, eventually, you’re not faking anymore. You are cool. You are calm. You do have confidence. And you are excited about what comes next.

 

What about you? When confronted with a crisis, how have you coped? As a re-booter, what beliefs and understandings do you have now that might help you manage a crisis to come? There are times in our lives when we are too besieged to look long term. This is when we need short term tools and long term lodestars that can get us from where we are to where we want to be. I’d love to hear what strategies you have used because mine aren’t the only ones out there. 

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One Response to “Short term Tools and Long term Lodestars”

  1. grasshopper Says:

    love short term goals! They’re the best! 🙂

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