We were so excited to see the green turtles! On our last day on the Big Island of Hawaii several years ago, Weezie and I went to a beach known for its large green turtles. We were not disappointed! One, in particular, grabbed our attention. This turtle was about 15 feet from the edge of the water, sunning on the beach. As we slowly approached, he began to move toward the water. We pulled out our phones to video the event. Ten minutes later the video was still running. We did not expect him to move an inch or so and pause. I would have shared the video, except I didn’t think most people have ten minutes to watch a turtle crawl fifteen feet.
The turtle was a vivid example of a truth we would rather not acknowledge. Progress in the important areas of life comes inch by inch; progress on a major project, progress in a close relationship, progress in our personal life. At times, we see what we want to happen, but day after day passes without anything changing. This frustration at the interminably slow pace that critical aspects of life advance can cause us to lose sight of the progress of the inch. We forget that a mile is covered by first moving a hundred yards. A hundred yards begins with one yard. One yard happens three feet at a time. And each foot progresses inch by inch.
I see this play out in all sorts of areas of my life, some of which I have a degree of control over and others which I do not control at all. Predictably, the more important the issue is, the slower the progress tends to be.
An example of this was with my aspiration to write a book. I worked on my first book, Space to Breathe Again, for about a hundred years, or so it seems. Perhaps I should have renamed it, Inch by Inch. 50,000 to 60,000 words (the typical length of a non-fiction book) is a whole lot of words. I have learned, though, that 1000 words begin with 100 words, which starts with the first sentence. And so, I write that first sentence. That first sentence, inch by inch, week by week, month after month, turned into a first draft. With many more “inches,” the end slowly came into view. This process of writing mirrors what I see in so much of life: progress in the vital areas of life happens much slower than I want, but it happens.
Is there an area of your life in which progress feels unbearably slow?
How do we learn to better manage the frustration of life lived inch by inch?
- Keep the big picture fixed firmly in your mind. The big picture will keep you moving forward when nothing appears to be happening.
- Know that in some of the most important arenas of our life, we stay in the starting gate for a long time before moving inch by inch. Persevere, even in the starting gate.
- Be aware of the inches. Inches turn into feet, which turn into yards and then miles. An inch may not seem like a lot, but it is progress. With my writing, I count words. It helps me remember that I am making progress.
- Be thankful for the inches. Small victories are still victories. Even steps backward are necessary precursors to moving forward. A little bit of progress is still progress.
- Reflect back at the mountains you have climbed. This is one of the benefits of a journal. A journal can be a memorial to the growth that has happened inch by inch. When we reflect on how far we have come, though the scars of those miles are evident, it strengthens us to keep on persevering when even inches are hard to see.
If you are struggling with a part of your life that is moving too slowly, look again. Celebrate the inches.