The infamous saying tells us that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We typically say this when we are trying to inspire ourselves to start something new, but how do we stay inspired in the middle of the lengthy journey that we have set out upon?
Yesterday was the first day of the year and my wife and I sat down over coffee and talked about our goals for this year. You probably did something similar. January 1 is the day that most people begin their new habits, quit some bad ones, and sign up for the program to help them accomplish the goal that they have set out to accomplish. Now it’s day 2. Yesterday was that first step, and today we begin to look down the road and realize the length of the journey we’ve just started. It’s like turning on your car’s GPS system only to realize you’re going to be in the car for a very long time. While you’re probably still excited and motivated, the weight of your task is setting in. As you look to what lies before you, I want to take a minute and warn you and encourage you.
First, the warning. Sometimes we get so excited about the first few steps of the journey, that we forget about the thousand miles to follow. The vision to change something in our lives can be very strong and it gets us pumped. So we jump in and make the change, only to realize that we will have to keep making that change everyday.
This is an unpopular opinion among some, but my favorite on screen version of Sherlock Holmes is Johnny Miller’s portrayal on the show Elementary. I do love Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal, as well, but there’s a part of the show Elementary that caused me to really engage Johnny Miller’s version on a deeper level. He’s a recovering addict. This piece of his character and his depiction adds a dose of real life to his character. Watching him work through his addiction really shows the time and effort it takes to grow and change your life. A couple of seasons into the show Sherlock grows frustrated with his situation and describes this process perfectly, “It’s the process of maintaining my sobriety. It’s repetitive. And it’s relentless. And above all, it’s tedious. When I left rehab, I accepted your influence, I committed to my recovery. And now, two years in, I find myself asking, ‘is this it?’ My sobriety is simply a grind.”
This change you’ve committed to or want to commit to, especially if it’s health related or focused on removing something from your life, is a grind. Be warned. It is relentless, repetitive, and tedious. Sherlock compares it to a leaky faucet that constantly requires maintenance. This new habit or change in your life, will require constant maintenance, so prepare yourself for the not so glorious daily grind.
Now, for the encouragement. This is how change happens. You’re on the right path. While your conversion experience, your decision to change, or the first time you gave up the habit make have been a landmark day, it’s the thousands to follow that really add up to change.
Like Jesus told his disciples, you have to die to your self daily. If you want to change, it requires daily sacrifice. Formation happens everyday over the course of a lifetime. Things like discipleship, recovery, and physical or emotional health are lifelong endeavors. While this may not sound too encouraging, please be encouraged. In a few months, you may not feel like your new spiritual practice or workout routine is getting you anywhere. Remember it’s about small improvements over the course of your thousand mile journey and not big leaps. You are changing little by little. When you get two weeks in and are unsure, remember that this takes time. As you look back 6 months, 1 year, or even 3 years into this change then you’ll begin to see that little by little, you have changed and you are growing.