Purpose, Persistence…and Shoveling

In the past week, something like a foot of snow has fallen in the NJ/NYC area.  Probably more, I’ve lost track.  I do know that there are gigantic mounds of snow by the curb where plows have consolidated it, making street parking difficult, and at several intersections.  I have to take running leaps to avoid drenching my boots and socks in soupy slush.

It was so pretty when it was snowing:  big, fluffy flakes, drifting down, blown diagonally, sometimes briefly even lifted straight up.  The park across the street was blanketed in white.  Kids made plump, smiling snowmen that gave me a lift on my walk to the train.

Then came all the shoveling.  Usually my husband takes care of it, but this weekend he’s out of town, so it fell to me.  Frankly, I didn’t really know that I could shovel.  Like parallel parking, my first, knee-jerk reaction is to  assume I can’t do it.  I’m afraid I might hit another car or back into a telephone pole.

I do know, however, that we learn by experiencing life, doing things.  And that includes making mistakes.  My husband has never shown a glimmer of fear about parallel parking, and he actually has backed into a telephone pole.  So why does my mind still want to believe that he’s the expert and I don’t know how to do it?

Since I was nervous about making some egregious shoveling error, or committing a neighborly faux pas, I actually did some online research first.  I read about using the wind to your advantage, and the importance of dressing in layers (10 minutes into it, the exertion makes you rip off outer layers  like an onion).

Finally it was time to actually grab a shovel and dive in.  It had rained, so the snow was slushy and twice as heavy.  The shoveling  doesn’t have to be perfect, but the shoveled walkway does need to be (literally) passable.  I wanted to be considerate to our neighbors and tenants, and didn’t want it to pile up until it had become too much to tackle.  With that in mind, I shoveled twice on Thursday.  I tackled a little at a time, and chipped away at icy spots.

snowI was so happy to come home Friday night and again see the fruits of my labor.  The clear pathway.  The mountain of snow by the street.  No icy or slushy patches to speak of.

My mind often tries to play tricks on me–one of which is the story, “It won’t work out.”  I’m surprised to see, time and again, that with a little grunt work and persistence, I get the results I want.  That “protective” story that things will be very hard and won’t work out in the end, is proven over and over not to be true.  “Hard” is not the same as “can’t do it.”  Do I know everything before I’ve started?  No.  Do I figure things out in the process?  Yes.

Persistence matters.  Most people who are successful got there by chipping away at what they initially didn’t know how to do, bit by bit, like a block of ice.  Backsliding can be a part of the process.  Instead of throwing the shovel down, we take a deep breath, acknowledge our progress, and get back to work.

Results come from breaking down goals into manageable steps and taking action.  But they only happen if we pick up our shovel.

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