One of the things I find most rewarding and gratifying about writing is when someone tells me that something I’ve written has helped them or inspired them or changed their life in some way. It’s also rewarding when something I write leads to a discovery of my own that helps me or inspires me or changes my life in some way.

It happened again a few days ago, as I was journaling about different projects I’m working on that seem to be going nowhere at the moment. What came out of this was a line that I’m adopting as my new motto: “In order to succeed, I need to proceed.”

As a writer and speaker, I admire the rhyme and rhythm of the statement, and also the fact that it’s easy to remember and repeat. But what’s really important is its reminder that in order to accomplish anything, I need to act on it.

That may sound like a no-brainer. After all, it seems like advice that’s so basic and obvious that it shouldn’t even need saying. But I know it will come in handy whenever I’m being pulled in too many directions at once. Or when a project gets stalled because of something I need to do, but find difficult, confusing, intimidating, or time-consuming. When that happens, it’s too easy to turn my attention instead to something else – something that also needs to be done, and is much more in my comfort zone.

The problem is that there are always other things that need to be done, and the difficult ones can quickly fall by the wayside. This leads to inertia, frustration, guilt, and a mountain of projects that are started but never finished – which leads to even more inertia, frustration, and guilt.

At times like this I need to remember that I don’t have to solve every problem, or have everything figured out, in order to proceed. The answers and outcomes will come in time, as long as I keep moving in the direction I want to go and as long as I do something – anything, no matter how small – that will help break through the bottleneck that is stopping me in my tracks and derailing whatever I am trying to accomplish.

Calvin Coolidge once said, “We cannot do everything at once. But we can do something at once.” In other words, in order to succeed, we need to proceed.

I feel kind of embarrassed acknowledging this new “discovery,” since staying in action and keeping the momentum going is actually a regular part of the speaking and coaching I do when I am helping other people achieve their own goals and dreams.  But it’s been said often that we teach best what we most need to learn, so I’m taking that to heart. I’ll continue teaching, and also reminding myself, that in order to succeed, we need to proceed.

And if I hear from anyone that this advice has helped them, inspired them, or changed their life in some way, I’ll be smiling broadly and nodding enthusiastically as I
tell them, “Me, too!”

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on January29, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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