Dispersed progress. That’s what I’m gonna call this lesson. Basically it’s the idea that progress in one area begets progress in other areas. Usually in a peripheral area – an area near or similar to the other area.
A few months ago I tried to do crow pose. It’s a pretty intense arm balance and requires a good deal of core strength to hold. I got in to it but my nose was only an inch off the mat and I couldn’t hold it. I fell. Immediately.
Then I didn’t try crow for months. Instead I started doing yoga more regularly in general. At first it was maybe once a week. Slowly it became daily, as desire grew threw play.
A few weeks ago I came back to crow again. This time I could do it and hold it. Not for long, mind you, but it happened. I took a picture to commemorate and fell out of the pose just after the shutter snapped.
This week I returned to crow and I held it. Not for a short time, but for eight full slow breathes. It was controlled. I lifted into it with control and I came out of it with control. There was no falling, no stumbling, no shaking. Just strength and freedom.
It got me thinking.
It made me think about how change happens in our lives, how growth comes, how we learn and develop new skills.
I could have learned crow pose by doing crow pose every day. It would have worked. Eventually I would have gained the strength needed in exactly the right muscles. But I think it might have taken longer that way.
If I had done that, if I had dug in and worked on crow pose specifically, I would have ended up feeling discouraged. Each time I fell out of the pose my psyche would take a little beating. Eventually I might give up and decide I am just not capable of mastering crow.
It made me think about what other areas of my life I might need to approach this way.
There are plenty of things I want to learn and master in my life. Perhaps I need to learn them by focusing on other areas instead of directly on the desired skill or trait.
How about this for an example.
How many times have I thought, “I don’t want to yell at my kids anymore?” And then turned around to find that my child has just purposefully dumped two buckets of bath water on the bathroom floor after I just told him to keep the water in the tub. My voice raises. “I just told you not to do that?! What were you thinking?!”
I calm down, apologize for yelling, make my kid help clean up the water, and resolve to not yell again. Then my child throws a toy at his baby sister. The momma bear in me comes out. I’m pretty sure literal steam is rising out of me ears like one of those angry cartoons. I yell again.
I don’t know about you, but when I resolve not to yell it doesn’t really do any good. Focusing on learning patience with my children doesn’t result in developing patience with them.
I’ve noticed something lately though, I’m not yelling at my children as much. In fact I almost never yell lately.
This change happened not when I was trying to stop yelling and working on learning patience. It happened when I was focusing on other things. Particularly lately I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness and grace. I’ve been focusing a lot on surrender and acceptance of whatever God sends.
This is dispersed progress. Focusing on one area resulted in progress and growth in another area.
I was also thinking about how this concept might apply to another more tangible skill I want to improve.
Many people say that the best way to improve as a writer is to write. I don’t doubt that advice, but I’m starting to think it’s only one method and perhaps there’s another (dare I say better?) way.
Perhaps like learning crow, or growing in patience with my children, I need to apply some dispersed progress to my writing life.
I have a hypothesis that focusing on other things besides writing – for example reading, observing people, involving myself in relationships, living life fully and presently, etc – might do just as much (if not more) to improve my writing than just working on writing regularly.
Dispersed progress results in well rounded progress. It results in progress that is almost surprising in how it sneaks up on you. It results in a road to progress that is encouraging instead of discouraging.
Next time I feel stuck as I try to learn something or try to enact some change in my life I want to remember to step back and work on something else. Step back and find some peripheral area on which to focus.
What do you think? Are there areas of your life were you’ve seen dispersed progress at work? Areas were working on one thing resulted in learning another?
Rejoicing in the journey,