I’ve had an interest in self-development since high school. I specifically remember to this day how it all started. A guy in my grade, let’s call him Aaron (because his name is Aaron) said to me, “you know, you’re a really smart guy but I always do better than you in class. You should listen to Tony Robbins.”
I didn’t end up listening to Tony Robbins (my family couldn’t afford the tapes), but I did take some of what was said to heart. I realized that I was a smart guy and that I was also not doing much with that intelligence. I was coasting and it showed.
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.” - Calvin Coolidge
Matt D'Avella may not have coined the phrase (maybe he did, I’m not sure?) but the concept of slow growth is pretty hard to refute. Each day you take a small step towards large long-term goals, keeping track of the growth you make, and like compounding interest you watch the results yield over time.
In a world filled with inspirational Tweets and LinkedIn updates it’s easy to feel as though self-improvement, growth, and ultimately success is just for other people, but most of the time it’s not huge steps that are driving the successes we see but rather small steady steps towards major goals.
So what are the keys to growing slowly? There isn’t really a one size fits all formula, but ultimately this comes down to a few key things:
Set your goals - These can actually be huge audacious goals or small goals, it’s not important. Try and stick with just a few goals and then write them down.
Break down the goals into small actions and tasks - For each of your goals ask yourself a simple question, “what is the next thing I could do to take a step towards this goal.” If one of your goals is to write a book your next step might simple be to draft a first chapter idea. If your goal is to learn graphic design it might be to simply read a few pages out of a design book. The goal here is to make the next action tiny, then identify the actions that follow after that.
Do the first task - After some goal setting and breaking things down don’t wait for further inspiration. Right away jump in and do the first task, even if all that task requires is reading a single page of a book. Do it now, do it immediately, and strike while the iron is hot.
Set up a tracking system - For all the actions, tasks and subtasks set yourself up an easy way to keep track of them. This might be a progress bar you fill in based on the percentage of that book you read, a kanban board of tasks that you consistently backlog, whatever that is. Create yourself a system that shows you the progress you’re making and use the progress as a motivator on days when things get hard.
Be patient and consistent - Finally, now that you have a long list of small actions and tasks, it’s time to chip away at them slowly. Set yourself a 3 year goal on any task, make small (ideally daily) steps towards that 3 year goal, and adopt the slow growth mindset.
I currently track several large goals, each with several smaller goals underneath them, and each of those have a progress. It’s kind of complicated, so instead of explaining it I’ll share an example.
One of my goals which I started recently was to learn to take better photos. I’ve long loved photography, I always dreamed as a child of being a photographer, so I am finally making steps towards a simple goal.
The overarching goal is to take better photos and take steps towards being able to be paid for the photos, so the goal has several smaller and trackable goals underneath.
Take a photo - I do this every day. It’s a simple task to do and it reinforces basic skills. Each day, irrespective of how I feel, I just take one photo. Frequently I take more than one, several in fact, but I track this against a calendar.
Work through one segment of the Lightroom Masterclass - I perform this task once a week. This consists of watching a video from a course about photo editing, practicing the skills I learned in the video on the photos I’ve taken.
Work through one segment with Joel Grimes - As with the Lightroom master class I perform this task once a week.
Right now these are just 3 small things I am working on towards a larger goal. Each piece is as simple as pressing the shutter button on a camera or watching a video, each piece contributes in a small way, and as I get through these three smaller goals I will simply add news ones.
Below is a screenshot of a Notion page to show how I track these goals.
I definitely wouldn’t call myself a guru, but I truly believe in the slow growth mindset of taking a small step each day towards large goals. Through this philosophy you can learn to slow down your expectations, make truly sustainable improvements to your professional and personal life, and move forward in was that ultimately stack up and surprise you.