We were so excited to see the green turtles. On our last day on the Big Island of Hawaii, 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. His picture is the picture for this post. We would have shown the video, except we didn’t think most people have ten minutes to watch a turtle crawl fifteen feet inch by inch.

The turtle was a vivid example of a truth we would rather not acknowledge.

Progress comes inch by inch.

Progress on important projects, progress on changes in relationships, progress in personal lives or growth in someone we care about, it all comes little by little. 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. An example of this is with my aspiration to write a book. I have been working on my first book, Breathe Again: Finding Life Through Less, for about a hundred years, or so it seems. Perhaps I need to rename 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 am learning, though, that 1,000 words begins with 100 words, which starts with the first sentence. And so, I write that first sentence. That first sentence has turned into a first draft. I am seeing the end come slowly into sight. Progress in areas that I care about happens much slower than I want, but it happens.

How do we learn to better manage the frustration of a life lived slowly? 

  • 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 some of the most important arenas of our life 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 book, I count words. Sometimes it helps me remember that I am making progress. 
  • Be thankful for the inches.Small victories are still victories. Even steps backwards sometimes are the necessary precursors to movement 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. 

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Richard H Kemper says:

    I look forward to the publishing of your book. Inch by inch we make process if the priorities of our life is in order.

    This post is something everyone should read as they start each new day.

  • Karen Hayes says:

    SO TRUE! I love the way you expressed this. We ARE like turtles, inching slowly toward closer relationship to God, slowly toward the good work He gives us to do, slowly toward stronger Christian character. I really want to be the hare in the turtle & the hare story, wanting everything to happen yesterday. Life and faith and writing are definitely not like that, though. Thanks for the encouragement and the mental picture you’ve given me to help me remember that eventually, I’ll not only have a toe in the water, but will be fully immersed in all that God has for me.