The Long, Slow Path to Progress

February 11, 2021 Updated: February 11, 2021

I stopped writing for nearly two years. I had intended to return to my Life and Whim blog long ago, but various circumstances too mundane and uninteresting to recount got in the way. At least that’s how I rationalize things in my mind. Certainly, the COVID-19 crisis didn’t help, but my departure long predates the pandemic. In fact, there is no good reason why I stopped doing this thing that once brought me great joy. One important lesson I’ve learned from the experience is that the hardest part about stopping something you love is learning to start over.

It’s Never Too Late

You can likely relate to the pain of starting over. Remember how hard it was to drag yourself to the gym after a long break from exercising? Can you still recall the aches and pains from the day after? Despite the soreness, you may also have kicked yourself for having taken so long to get back at it. It’s not so bad to start again—once you’ve started. The resistance we feel is mostly a mental construct that can easily be overcome when we will ourselves to act.

Many of us have had to make major adjustments over the course of the pandemic given the challenging circumstances, from homeschooling to health concerns to economic uncertainty. Priorities pushed aside. Projects shelved. Expectations lowered.

Perhaps you had that book you wanted to write or business you wanted to start, but couldn’t seem to make progress. That’s completely understandable, as the mental stresses brought on by the pandemic have been crippling. I don’t know about you, but for me, all that chatter at the onset of COVID-19 about how productive people were during lockdown couldn’t end soon enough.

For most, this has been a period during which dreams have been, out of necessity, deferred. And we can certainly relate. In late 2019, my wife, Heather, began taking Life and Whim’s business in an entirely new and exciting direction. She began moving beyond our product line and started hosting workshops with other artisans teaching attendees how to tap into their creative spirits. From pottery to weaving, Heather’s workshops were well-attended and well-received by those in our community. Almost all quickly sold out. There was lots of momentum.

And then, of course, it all came to a grinding halt in March. But all was not lost. And Heather will soon begin anew, this time with virtual workshops, with a return to in-person gatherings when it’s safe to do so.

The point is, no matter how long it’s been, it’s possible to pick up where you left off. You simply need to start again. It may not be easy—but it is simple. It’s just a matter of summoning the will. As George Elliot once said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”

What Waits to Blossom Within?

Who do you want to be? What do you want to achieve? What suppressed desire is gnawing at you? Fear, procrastination, and self-doubt are thieves of progress. Hard work in pursuit of a worthwhile goal is the sweat equity through which bright futures are built.

But don’t expect immediate returns on your investment. Our society has conditioned us to believe in the promise of quick wins and overnight success. The true path to progress is long and slow.

Here’s how Maria Papova, author of the Brain Pickings blog, puts it:

“The flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.”

Papova reminds us that it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through the process of writing books, building businesses, and trying to make an impact, it’s that the outcome of any sustained effort is largely out of your hands. Some things stick, and others don’t. But there’s always some benefit to be gained from the effort. When you try, you can’t help but grow.

Accordingly, no matter how hard the road ahead may seem, you can incrementally—step by step—move toward your destination. The only thing that may be stopping you is a limiting belief about your potential.

What’s waiting to blossom inside of you? Don’t allow your dreams to wither and die. The world needs the beauty of your unique contribution.

Jay Harrington is an author, lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, and runs a northern Michigan-inspired lifestyle brand called Life and Whim. He lives with his wife and three young girls in a small town and writes about living a purposeful, outdoor-oriented life.