Posting the recent journal entries from 11 years ago, in particular ‘Patience & Comparisons‘ and ‘The Mind‘, I was left reflecting on whether I had actually made any progress with the aspects mentioned in those posts. Have I become more patient? Do I still compare myself with others? And has the influence my mind has over me waned at all?
My initial thoughts were that I have made no progress in the 11 years since those posts. I felt embarrassed; a little ashamed that I have not done better. However, the more I thought about it, the more I concluded that, whilst there is clearly still work to be done, I have made progress with all three. And I have improved in a host of other areas beyond what I might have imagined back in August 2000.
Other posts from the same week helped me to reach these conclusions: ‘I’m Exactly Where I Need to Be‘ and ‘Every Inch Has to Be Walked‘. Those entries indicate that there are no short cuts and that, regardless of how much progress we think we should have made, we are doing just fine. Which brings me to another reason why I thought I had not progressed: expectations.
My expectations in 2000 were that I would resolve these issues once and for all; that I will see the day when I no longer hurry, no longer compare and when my mind is fully under my control. I have come to realise that these things are not like switches which are either on or off. They are processes and the work is ongoing. Some days are more difficult than others but if we keep going, we will improve.
Another factor is that it may not be wise or even possible to tackle everything at once. This means, as we focus on one goal, we may lose sight of others. I often talk about how writing things down can be used to chart our progress. Well, it can also be used to remind us of what we set out to achieve. This past week, in posting the journal entries, I have seen that, 11 years on, I still have some work ahead of me. But the reminders provided by those posts have been enough to sharpen my focus. Now, instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed, I feel empowered.
One final point is the setbacks which occur within every (long-term) process. For example, when I read the ‘Birthday‘ post I was reminded that, although it all sounds very positive, especially the physical aspect, I went on to experience significant setbacks in 2001 and 2007. On both occasions I had major surgery which set me way back, although it must be emphasised that both operations eventually freed me to make much greater progress after my recovery.
So, we define our goals, we periodically refocus and we remind ourselves we are always improving, especially when it may not seem that way. We also reassure ourselves that even the inevitable setbacks may assist us in the long run. And, throughout it all, we keep in mind that these things take time.