When I graduated from college in 2010, I weighed almost 300 pounds. This is something that surprised me greatly toward the end of my senior year. While I did see this as a problem, it never really got in the way of accomplishing any goals I was setting at the time. I kind of dismissed this.
When I returned home, looking for work so I could pay off my student loan debt, I got a job at FedEx as a package handler. In no way was I considering this a way to address my weight issue. But over the course of a few months, I had already dropped about 20 pounds. Not that I was living any better, but I did like how just getting a job that had me moving around could have this effect on me.
Visualize the Goal, See the Progress
It wasn't until I had started my career as a programmer that I had noticed how attached I was to maintaining a moderately healthy weight. Even just a few months on the job, I was back up 10 pounds from when I started. During this time I noticed how uncomfortable I was with my lifestyle. Noticing these few things triggered something in me to a point where I decided to set a goal for myself. I wanted to get back to where I was before college. I wanted to be healthy.
In 2013, I stopped drinking pop altogether and started running everyday after work. Over the course of a year, I had dropped down to about 250 pounds again. Still way higher than my target (in high school I weighed a bit over 180 pounds), but it was progress. Progress.
In 2014, I began walking at least one mile per day. The running that I was doing in 2013 was starting to be something I wasn't enjoying, so I decided to dial it back and use it as a time to think. During this time I noticed not only that I was losing some weight, but that I was starting to feel healthier in general. I wasn't running out of breath as often and my endurance was improving. Progress.
In 2015, I began pushing myself onto a healthier diet. Just eating less was tough. My brain was so conditioned to eating when it was bored and it liked only the worst things for me. Still, making tiny shifts at a time, a sensible diet was forming. Over a couple years (and one really big 6-month push), I got myself down to 200 pounds. Progress.
I maintained that for most of 2017, but during the winter holidays, I started gaining again. Not wanting to fall into a trap of being okay with that, I turned myself to what seemed to be the next sensible step: daily exercise. What started as a couple exercises before bed grew into a 10-exercise regime. Now, not only am I feeling healthy, I'm starting to look the part. This coupled with my existing dietary restrictions, diet in general, and walking, I'm now sitting at 190 pounds. Just 10 pounds shy of my goal from 2013. Progress.
Now, that sounds like a long time to lose about 100 pounds, but it was also an underlying lifestyle shift. This is realistic when devoting your life to a goal isn't possible. For most of us, we have to maintain a lot outside of our goals to simply live, so these long-term goals are what we're capable of setting. This can be difficult to keep up with since our time is limited enough as it is. Not getting where we want to be immediately is something we have to endure. The driving factor over the course of that time, for me, was that I was making progress.
You see, one of the things I learned reflecting on this is that as long as you're aware of your goals, and you still have them in your sights, there's no reason to think they're beyond you. There's almost always something you can do to make that little bit of progress to your goal. Even little ones that only impact you, like my weight loss above.
For the goals that matter in the grand scheme of things, we have to be aware that progress is one of the greatest indicators that we're working toward a goal. You can't be discouraged by not seeing the result in very little time.
Humans and Progress
As an example, let's say you're really upset that the beaches on the planet are getting completely trashed. Asking yourself what difference it makes to go clean it up when it'll just get dirty again is complacency at its finest. If that's a goal that you have, to clean the environments around our oceans, you should make those little steps. A couple things can happen.
Your actions can inspire others. Humans are beings driven to other humans. When they see another human doing something that resonates with them, they are likely to either join the human that is resonating with them or share the story of the human that resonated with them with other humans. In time, your tiny steps have encouraged others to take tiny steps with you. Together, you make a slightly bigger tiny step. But you'll notice that you're making progress. Progress.
So take the tiny steps where you can. Look for those little signs of progress. Take some pride in knowing you helped make that progress. Let that pride evolve into a humble inspiration that drives you to keep going.
We may not be here to see the result for everything we do. The people that will see that result may not even know you. Just know that even your tiny steps can change the world, for you and everyone. Don't let instant gratification stop you from seeing progress. The outcome might not have been realized without you.