Last week I got to spend some time in California on the beach with my family. It finally took the opportunity to try something I’ve always wanted to do: surfing.
I had watched a bunch of instructional videos on YouTube and in my mind I would be able to stand right up on the first try and cut back and forth across the crashing wave. I imagined it would look like the GoPro videos, with me inside a curling tube of water.
Imagination is a funny thing.
Let’s just say it was two days before I was even able to stand up on the board and catch a wave. I felt like the most unathletic and awkward person on the planet.
One thing I noticed during the week was that not far from the shore there was a slight undertow that would slowly pull me down the beach away from where my family was playing. Even though I would get up and fall repeatedly in what I thought was the same place, I was actually slowly being pulled away. In fact, if I just sat on the boat for a few minutes and watched for waves coming in, I would find that I had drifted 100 yards down the shore from where my family was. Without doing anything, I was moving away from where I wanted to be.
In life, we are always learning and trying new things. And whether we realize it or not, we are always moving in one direction or another. We are either paddling hard to catch the next wave or we are slowly being pulled away from our goal.
There is no such thing as holding steady, taking a break, or stopping where you are.
Time moves on, life moves on, the world around you moves on. So if you stop working to improve yourself, you don’t just stay in the same place, you don’t even stay the same person, you are actually getting left behind. The clock doesn’t pause because you are tired, depressed, or need to take a break from everything. If you stop to take a break, you are getting left behind. If you think you have accomplished enough, you are getting left behind. If you let self-doubt keep you from opportunities in your path, you are getting left behind.
A happy and fulfilling life is all about not getting left behind; not getting passively pulled away in the undertow because you did nothing. Life is about constant forward progress. It is about taking advantage of the time we are given. It is about getting better every day. Whether you are working on little things or big accomplishments, you have to keep progressing. Maybe it is a bad habit you are working on dropping or a good habit you are trying to get started. Maybe it is saving money for a house, or working towards a promotion, or trying to be a better parent. There are an infinite number of ways that you can improve and take steps forward. You must keep swimming in the right direction.
Some ideas to help keep you progressing:
Write down your life goals every morning and decide what you can do today to get closer to them.
Decide to learn something new every day: go online, read a book, watch a documentary, etc.
Stay motivated! Find blogs and websites that uplift you and keep you recharged.
Do something nice for one person every day: a “thank you” card, a compliment, an act of service.
Write in a journal. It is amazing what that act alone will do for you and your progress.
The world we are a part of is ever-changing, difficult, and uncertain. The only constant and universal path you can travel is that of consistent self-improvement. No matter what is going on around you, you can always set personal goals for yourself that move you in the right direction.
Like Dory said in the movie Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”