Small wins, part 2

March 27, 2019

Yesterday, I wrote about focusing on the small wins, rather than the big goals or major breakthroughs.

The first step is to define your threshold for success in the short term.

What would make today a successful day?

When I was writing my thesis, I set myself the target of writing a minimum of 500 words per day. This meant that I had a specific metric of success; on a difficult day, if I struggled to reach 501 words but fought my way through, it was still a successful day. If I blasted through 2000 words easily, it was a great day.

Sometimes, though, you aren’t in complete control of the outcome. Things can go wrong, equipment can break, experiments can fail... On days like these, your effort might not produce measurable forward progress.

But it’s days like these where your effort is most important. It’s the ability to stay engaged and creative when things go wrong that will make all the difference in the long run.

It’s still a win if you kept trying. It’s still a win if you stopped to think about the problem instead of just working on something else. It’s still a win if you stayed curious and engaged.

If you think this way, if you can look back on even the most frustrating days and say you did your best, more tangible success will come. It takes time, but it will come.

See also
Be like the ocean
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