Just Jennifer: Step By Step

It was only a few days into the summer vacation—when summer camp hasn’t started yet, and the kids are starting to tease each other enough that you already start fantasizing about back to school—that we found ourselves at the mall. I was very pregnant, very hot, and just hoping that they would stop fighting for five freakin’ minutes.

One of my mom friends happened to pass by as we were eating in the super pretty food court (it has a beautiful Victorian carousel!), and we started talking. She was thinking about getting a job, but the process seemed so daunting that she didn’t know where to start. I heard myself telling her that to tackle a project so large could scare off anyone, and to break it down into lots of little phases and pieces. I told her that if she devoted even 15 minutes a day to it, slowly but surely she would realize her goal. The advice wasn’t life-altering, but something that maybe she needed to be reminded of.

As we parted ways and I waddled down to see if I could find a new maternity dress, I thought about our conversation. It suddenly dawned on me that perhaps I needed that advice more than her. You see, at that time, I was almost 7 months pregnant — and stuck. My husband and I had been killing ourselves working on a pool project that, as much as we tried, seemed to be going absolutely nowhere. And Celebrity Parents Magazine, having just gone through a gorgeous redesign, was now suddenly without images for over 2,000 stories. The more I worked on it, the worse it got.

So, as I sniffed some summer-scented candles in Bath & Body Works, I realized what the problem was.

I don’t mind working super hard to achieve my goals; in fact, I thrive on deadlines and, as I like to say, GSD (getting shit done). But my hubby and I weren’t working smart; we were just working crazy hard with zero results.

Here’s the problem: when you are working towards such a huge goal, and you only have your sights set on achieving that goal, you’re going to fail. It’s inevitable. Don’t believe me? Here’s an example. You want to lose 50 pounds. You have the number 50 locked in your brain. So the first week of eating healthy and exercising, you lose 2 pounds. Great, right? Nope. You want to lose FIFTY. After a month, you’ve lost about eight pounds, which is eight pounds less than you weighed before. But since it’s not FIFTY, you get frustrated with yourself. You eat a brownie. You give up.

It’s almost impossible to celebrate the small victories when you are so intently focused on the finale. What winds up happening is that you give up before you’ve even really started.

Such as it was with the pool. My husband and I were so focused on the end result (a gorgeous heated pool with a fabulous deck) that we got frustrated. And I was so hell-bent on getting Celebrity Parents perfect that I lost focus of how amazingly far (and how incredibly successful) it had become.

So we scaled back. We literally took every single part of the project step by step and were happy with each phase. We got a new permit? Score! I now only had 1,500 posts to go that needed photos? Awesome! And do you know what happened? Things started to move faster. Suddenly, we weren’t seeing the forest; we were seeing the trees.

And they were beautiful.

Everyone has a Big Project that they are tackling. It could be something like organizing your home once and for all. It could be the decision to end your marriage and finally divorce your spouse. You want to be a better parent. It could be just as simple as the decision to get happy. But all of these are lofty goals if you only think of the end result. So I encourage you, Dear Readers, to have big dreams. Have a million of them. But then get serious and break them down into itty, bitty, bite-sized pieces that you can work on.

And, step by step, you’ll get there.

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