Do you ever hear about somebody doing something awesome, or even see a friend doing a new cool thing, and get a little jealous? But quickly your jealousy might turn into something else – a feeling of motivation. “If they can do it, I can do it!”
You see someone lose a bunch of weight – they are looking good and feeling better. They tell you they are eating a little less, a little healthier, and they started jogging. “Good for them!”, you think… “I wish I could do that”… “I CAN do that!” So what then? You go to the Finish Line or maybe just Amazon, and you pick up a beautiful new white pair of running shoes. It takes you awhile to pick them out. You want the best ones, after all. You settle on the brand name shoes, the ones with the new technology that will make it feel like you are running on a cloud. While you’re at it, get the nice running shorts with the moisture wicking lining, and the matching shirt with the little pocket for your iPhone.
Or maybe your friend has a blog, and she picked up photography. She has a really nice camera and it takes gorgeous crystal clear pictures. You always wanted to get more into photography. Your camera is pretty old, and the battery might not hold a charge as long as it used to. You’re really inspired by her instagram page – you immediately begin the search for a camera that has a million times better zoom than your old crappy one. They’ve got ones with different lenses you can swap out, and they’re pretty expensive but this is an investment in yourself.
Or maybe you just hear about a new book that’s really good. You’ve got Amazon Prime, it can be here tomorrow.
Or skis. Or a calligraphy set. Or the chef quality knives.
But then it’s already six months later. You went running a few times. The new camera is really complicated, and the photos are mostly blurry. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. You’ve got a pile of books you’ve never even cracked open. And the knives did not make you into a professional in the kitchen. You cut yourself and put them away.
Why do we do this?
We buy the thing, thinking it will change who we are, what we are capable of. And when we buy the thing – before it even arrives, before we ever use it once – we feel really good. It seems like we’re moving in the right direction.
It feels like progress. But it’s not.
Progress would be putting on your old crappy tennis shoes and walking every day for a week. That would be progress.
Progress would be starting your own blog and taking amateur photos with your iPhone. Experimenting, playing around.
Progress would be going to the library, and actually reading the book you bring home.
When you buy the thing and try to jump into perfection, you are moving, but you are not actually going forward. It feels good in the moment, but you aren’t making progress. You are preparing to make progress.
Preparing for the progress is really safe. You are not vulnerable when you are shopping on Amazon. You are vulnerable when you are out jogging and out of breath. You are vulnerable when you show a blurry photo to a friend who struggles with a compliment. You are vulnerable when you are trying out a new healthy recipe and it doesn’t work out like you thought it would.
That doesn’t feel good.
But you can’t make progress without the vulnerability of failure.
That’s where the rewards live. All the good stuff comes from the action – not the motion. You’ve got to actually go do the thing to improve, or to get anything good out of it. I know, it’s scary. But do you want to be good, or do you want to feel good (for a minute)?
To live your best life, you have to take action, not just the easy motion. You’ve got to swim laps, you can’t just tread water. As my friend Zach put it, buying gym clothes is easy. Lifting weights is hard.
And there’s good news. All this real progress doesn’t cost a thing. You don’t need to buy anything to take a real step forward. You will save money by actually using the things you already have, and you’ll feel great in the process.
You already have everything you need to start.