Just Take It Step By Step

flower girl

The climber does not look up at the rearing mammoth wall of rock she must ascend; instead, she looks down, at her feet, taking it step by step. That is all anything in the world is done or made: step by step, person by person, word by word.

But even when you are aware of this basic concept, it can be appallingly hard to apply it to your own life. Some days you will wake up with sore toes, or an aching back, and the thought of taking another step overwhelms you with a sense of futility. Other days you are simply tired, the kind of fatigue that sinks deep into your bones, and would much rather roll over and sleep for a few centuries. And, if we’re honest, there are days when we are simply lazy, when we stare up at the mountain with a groan and huddle back into our tent, coddling a Thermos flask of hot chocolate.

It is a natural part of being human, I think, to not want do things than do things; after all, how much easier is it, to watch another episode of your favourite show than exercise, or pick up takeaway from that Indian restaurant down the street than cobble together ingredients from the fridge and spend an hour cooking a meal yourself? Far, far easier, my friend. However, caving in to these indolent impulses, borne of a desire for immediate gratification, is a sure path to misery.

For I guarantee you that if you do get up, much as every fibre of your body protests, and go to the gym rather than spend an hour pigging out in front of the television, afterwards, you will much happier for it. It is in improving ourselves, and doing what we know is necessary to achieve what we want to achieve, day by day, that creates long-term happiness. Even if in the moment you are screaming in agony at having to do it, later on, you will thank your past self for being a taskmaster.

This does not mean that you should spend your days doing what you loathe; but, as those of you who have long-term dreams probably know, no matter how much you love something, and believe in it, and want to achieve, sometimes you do not wake up excited and ready to tackle whatever endeavors are needed to make your dream come true. But you have to. It is the only way.

Right now you may be moaning at having to put one stone down after the other, staring longingly over your shoulder at the meadows and the flowers and the sun, but I guarantee when you look up and see, after years of effort, the wall you have built, the happiness in that single moment will be greater than what a millenium of frolicking in the grass could produce.

Rather than to be or not to be (which, in my opinion, is a pointless question – if you already exist, then you might as well go on existing), the question we should be phrasing to ourselves each morning is: To do or not do? What we spend each day doing is how we will spend our life. Each morning, we have the choice to strive for what we believe in, or spend another day drugged on junk food and television and other frivolous pursuits which only bring transitory pleasure – and sometimes not even that.

Lots of blood and sweat and tears will be involved, along with groaning, and moaning; but if you push through it, you will feel better for it. Also, it helps if you partially enjoy what you are doing, some of the time at least. For instance, a sculptor might get tired, after a few weeks, of chipping away at a shapeless hunk of stone, no matter how much she enjoys the tink tink sound, or the way the heft of the hammer feels in her hand, but grow quite excited and happy when the statue begins to take shape, slowly forming into something that is true, and real, beneath her fingers.

So try to find the pleasure in each step you take: notice, with delight, the way the grass squishes beneath your feet, the way the sun billows a warm wind against your face, the hum of the bees and the chirp of the birds. Caught up in the enjoyment taking the steps, one day you will look up, and find yourself at the top of the mountain – and though the view will undoubtedly be glorious, just maybe, as you watch the sun set, you will find that you enjoyed the climbing much, much more.

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