How can you suddenly see a bit further than you could before?
Few things make a greater contribution to your positive inner life than making progress.
Even small progress. That still counts for more than you think, since it adds the force that spins your motivational flywheel.
Whatever project you’re working on, whether it’s training your pet, painting a canvas, fixing the house, or growing your business, the primary goal should be building greater momentum with each step. Using your own progress as leverage.
This may sound like a chicken egg paradox, but once you have some, you can get some. The more you work, the more you understand what working means, and this knowledge informs the future decisions.
Computer engineers invented agile development for this reason. Programmers make assumptions, create the first version of their software, test it, and then revise it for the next iteration. And they repeat that process until they’re happy.
Not until it’s perfect, but until they’re happy.
Big difference there.
The good news is, you don’t have to be a computer engineer to get your motivational flywheel spinning. This principle is applicable to any endeavor.
It takes me back to middle school, when I first started writing music. My first few dozen songs were horrendous. The words were meaningless drivel, the chords didn’t harmonize, and my hormonal, prepubescent vocals were cracking every other line.
Most teenagers would have rage quit within a few months, and it crossed my mind more than a few times.
But what kept me moving forward was the sense of progress. Each new tune flooded my creative process with intense learning experiences. Every time I sat down and wrote something new, I got a bit smarter about writing. That journey, grating and embarrassing as it was, populated my frame of reference and expanded the palette from which I composed.
And the faster my flywheel spun, the easier it became to motivate myself to write the next song.
Funny thing is, that was thirty years ago. Hundreds and hundreds of songs ago. And today, that same sense of progress still inspires my songwriting.
Like the moment I accidentally discover some unexpected chord while fiddling with a new song.
Whoa, was that a diminished seventh right there? Where the hell did that come from? Listen to the emotional tension that sound creates. Cool.
And the release the listener feels when the bridge goes up a half step to reach the minor seventh? Wow.
That kind of progress is unbeatable. It feels like I can suddenly see a bit further than I could before.
What gets your motivational flywheel going? Are you willing to experiment relentlessly until you find the formula that works for your work?
One visualization that’s fun is to think of yourself as a government contractor who builds battle robots for the military. Every subsequent model your factory produces improves upon the previous one by correcting flaws found during battle. The soldiers stop by the assembly line and give you these small shreds of context from the front lines.
And now every modification the engineers do make the robot’s creative mechanism more capable against future opponents, more adept at solving problems, and more able to fend off potential threats to its plans.
That’s progress you can use as leverage.
Remember, most achievements are the culmination of years of daily work and incremental growth. If you want to make a greater contribution to your positive inner life, get that flywheel spinning.
When was the last time you did something and suddenly saw a bit further than you could before?
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