Little Victories

Yesterday my friend Kim and I were talking about her newest goal to participate in a triathlon. It's not just a goal; she's actually training quite diligently for it. Each day, she either runs, bikes, or swims a certain distance and some days she does two of those things. She tells me that is called bricking and eventually she has to do a lot of it to prepare for this race where she will do all three (hopefully) within a certain time span (again hopefully). I, by the way, am not doing a triathlon, nor am I training for one. You go girl.

We were talking about how hard her bike ride had been yesterday because the wind was blowing so ferociously. It was a breeze going out three miles, but it was like pedaling into a brick wall on the way back.

Kim told me that to push herself forward she gives herself little incentives along the way. For instance, she told herself "If you just make it to that telephone pole up there, there is a double scoop icecream cone waiting for you!" Mind you, there really is no icecream cone at the telephone pole. Normally she says this little mind game works for her, but yesterday she had about decided that she could care less about the stupid ice cream cone.

Thing is, this method would never work for me because I know there is no ice cream cone at the telephone pole to begin with and, besides that, I don't even like ice cream that much. But hey, if it works for Kim, more power to her. She's the one doing the triathlon. I'm the one sitting on my seat.

It occurred to me after our conversation that Kim was simply setting up some little victories for herself, albeit in her mind, so that she could have victory in her ultimate goal. Little victories, indeed, lead to bigger ones.

Sometimes we need to set up some little victories along the way to keep us going toward the larger goal. I know I do. So rarely do we accomplish the big things, it certainly helps to string together some smaller accomplishments to push us toward that bigger victory.

For instance, I'm a pretty big list maker. I'm not obsessive compulsive about it or anything, but I do make them, especially when I have a lot to accomplish or, in keeping with my topic here, a bigger goal. Accomplishing little objectives on my list makes me feel like I'm moving steadily toward the big goal. In fact, I so crave those little victories, that I often start off my list with simple, no-brainer things that I've actually already done just so I can immediately cross things off. For instance, I might be making a list of all I have to do before going on a big family trip. The list will include doing all the laundry, packing, taking the dogs to the sitter, clean out the refrigerator etc. All big, bad, yucky stuff that has to be done, but doesn't appeal to me in the least. So I start my list with stuff like eat breakfast, brush teeth, make bed, call parents, watch Good Morning America. That way I can immediately check off a good portion of my list and feel really good about myself.

Is this not the saddest thing you've ever read? I'm making Kim and her imaginary ice cream cone sound awfully smart.

My daughter Abby was telling me about a mind game she played yesterday as well. She got in the car when I picked her up from school and she informed me that she had a wonderful day. When I asked her what was so wonderful about it, she said this:

When I woke up this morning (she wakes up at 4:30 mind you) I really didn't feel like going to school (she'd had a bad headache the night before). But then I told myself all the reasons I needed to go to school. So after I got through that long list I said, "Ok, good Abby, you win. We'll go to school." And so I went to school and did all those things and now I'm glad I did.

Other than the fact that I'm a little concerned that good Abby and evil Abby are having conversations in my house at 4:30 in the morning, I'm thrilled with my daughter for being so thrilled with accomplishing so little.

Little accomplishments actually do add up. If good Abby manages to win the argument every morning and get to school each day then she will also reach her goal of being a good student. If I can manage to get up and moving in order to brush my teeth and make my bed I stand a good chance of also getting the laundry and the packing done. And if Kim can make it to the next telephone pole for the imaginary ice cream cone, she's a lot more likely to also finish her triathlon - I guess. I'm still not sure about that one.

At any rate, little victories are a good thing.

At the end of the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes the people a lot of little goals. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks for everything. Don't quench the Holy Spirit. Don't despise the truth. Examine everything carefully. Abstain from evil.

Kind of like my to-do list, this list of little things may not seem like much on their own. But you string all these together and you've got a mighty tall order. On the other hand, you accomplish one of these, and you're propelled toward the goal of accomplishing the next and the next and the next. God doesn't expect us to get our act together over night. But He does, I believe, expect growing Christians to be moving forward a little bit every day, obeying the instruction of His Word a little more closely each day, and becoming more and more like Christ. And I like to think He celebrates those little victories with us each day.

So do you have any little goals that help you reach the bigger ones? What little victories have you had lately? Lost 2 pounds? Exercised 3 days in a row? Stayed with your daily Bible reading so far? Went to bed on time for one whole week? Made it to the next telephone pole?

I'd love to hear all about it! And hey, thanks Kim and Abby for being such good sports. I love you both. And, like I always say, you can always start your own blog and write all my junk in it!