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Incremental Awareness

As the days grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere we detect the changes around us. The changes were happening anyway, but it seems to accelerate. Just this morning I watched the sun rise through a window where I haven’t seen the sun rise since last autumn. A mix of travel and weather conditions made it a complete surprise when it happened.

And what of the changes we take ourselves through? We exercise, eat the right food, read and write every day and nothing seems to come of it. And one day we catch ourselves in surprise at who we’ve become without realizing it. Hey, that’s me! The light dawns on Marblehead, as they say in Boston when you’re the last to know. We know we’re changing, but don’t often see it in ourselves.

Until we do.

Why don’t we have more incremental awareness? Why don’t we see the smallest of changes in ourselves as we’re making them? Are we lacking self-awareness or are we just not giving ourselves the credit we deserve for doing the work? It’s as if we’re trained not to notice that we got up and worked out for three days in a row, we have to wait until we have washboard abs to be allowed to celebrate.

The only way to be incrementally aware is to track ourselves. To write it down. To draw a big X through another day on the calendar (especially when you didn’t really feel like doing X that day). It’s not about the washboard abs or the number on the scale or the published novel, it’s about the process — saying we’re going to do something and following through on it. And then doing it all again tomorrow. Incremental action isn’t suddenly seeing the sunrise after your first day, it adds up over time and reveals itself slowly.

When it will suddenly dawn on you.

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