Three Steps Forward…

three steps forward personal excellence

Do you ever feel like your life is following the pattern from the old phrase “three steps forward and two steps back”? This week I came across a very special tracking sheet that I used eleven years ago, and it had this phrase written in my hand-writing in magic marker across the top.  It was actually part of an old country song I used to sing to my son while I would rock him to sleep.  Wow, the memories that came flooding back to the surface…

As a mom-to-be, I heard & read countless horror stories about babies who wouldn’t sleep through the night and had no set schedule until well into their toddler years, if ever.  I didn’t want that to be my fate and the theories on the value of putting babies on a set routine made sense to me. So, we made the commitment to be disciplined in working with Yehoshua to get him on a healthy eating and sleeping routine. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and as a brand-new, first-time mother, the sound of my newborn crying was absolutely more than I could bare. I didn’t understand why my son was crying any more than he did at the time, and it took us both a few weeks just to acclimate to one another. But at 6-weeks old, I decided to bite the bullet and start the sleep training.

We called it “baby boot camp”, even though we were really the ones who were being put through boot camp. It took every ounce of discipline in my body not to give in to my gut responses from both physical and emotional exhaustion. We were sleep-deprived and clueless, but we knew that if we caved in the short-term, we would all continue to suffer in the long-run. So, we selected the plan we wanted to follow and for four solid weeks we religiously followed the plan. We logged all of his patterns, behaviors, and actions to monitor his response to the training, and we put several other things on the back burner to allow us to focus on this one priority. We made sure that his grandparents and nanny were following the same pattern so that he was getting a consistent message from everyone who cared for him. There were a couple nights when I thought we weren’t making any progress, but he first slept through the night for a full 12 hours at 8 weeks, and by 10 weeks old, he was pretty much in the groove. We did the happy dance at our house and slept with smiles on our faces at the pure relief of a good night’s rest.

For a few solid weeks, he seemed invincible. The kid slept for 12 hours like clockwork, and we very quickly forgot the torture of the cries from a baby who just couldn’t get himself settled down enough to sleep. Then he hit a growth spurt. Then we went to visit family, and he had to adjust to new surroundings. Then he started teething. Each time the “normal” pattern was interrupted, his consistent sleep would suffer, and we would have to go back to the basics of “baby boot camp” to re-teach him the skill of sleeping.

I began to accept the back and forth dance of progression and regression.  Just when we seem to have one thing figured out, something else will come along and knock us out of whack.

Now, my point in sharing this story is not to endorse any one child-raising method. But, have you noticed how the same principle seems to apply on the greater scale of everyday life? We’ve talked repeatedly about the never-ending struggle for balance among the human race. As modern-era men and women, all the different roles we play make our list of responsibilities a mile long, and sometimes we think about how great it would be if—for just one day—we could have everything going in the same direction at the same time. Just think about what it might look like:

Get out of bed, have your quiet time, squeeze the workout in, spend a few moments of quality time with the fam before the day begins, operate in excellence with your professional projects all day, make the couple quick calls to friends and family to let them know you care, provide a healthy dinner for the family in the evening, debrief on the affairs of everyone’s day, make sure all the homework is done and bags are packed for tomorrow, then spend some time relaxing with them before you tuck them in, just in time to do a quick email check on your way to bed so that you can get a little personal growth reading in and plan out the next day before you turn out the light!

Ahhhh…maybe someday. Maybe you’re thinking that on a good day you get two-thirds of those things done. Right about the time we get the workouts down, we seem to lose control of our disciplined eating habits. Or a lack of sleep is cutting into your quiet time. Just when you feel like you’ve got it together in one area, another one falls through the cracks. Again, it’s three steps forward and two steps back.

How about in your professional life? I remember taking time to focus on perfecting my leadership skills only to see my sales slide. Or, I would throw all of my efforts into marketing and seem to lose sight of great customer follow-up. Then, I would get all wrapped up into executing the perfect event and forget to book clients for future sessions.  How is one supposed to manage existing clients, while seeking to find new ones, while trying to stay on top of social media, while drowning through accounting and taxes and payroll, while….I think you get the point. The list of specific examples we could share here is endless. If I wasn’t careful, I could get so frustrated with myself that I would even question whether the “hassle” was worth it. Three steps forward and two steps back.

Here are the thoughts I settled on as I sat there looking back at our old sleep training charts. I don’t believe that we’re going to ever get it all completely together this side of Heaven. God’s not going to let that happen, because then we wouldn’t need Him for the journey. As we each walk our path, we must remember, it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. Are we striving to do better, be better, live bigger, serve bigger? We don’t want to lose sight of our destination, but we must also be willing to enjoy the journey along the way. How we conduct ourselves and who we become on the journey could be the entire purpose of the trip. One day God will be able to explain the whole map to us. So, until then, let’s put the steps to music and smile while we sing, “Three steps forward. Two steps back.”

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