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The Little Finish

J. R. R. Tolkien once said, “Little by little, one travels far.” It’s really true. Babies learn to walk one step at a time. Novels are written one word at a time. Mountains are climbed one foot at a time. But unfortunately, when we are faced with what seems like an insurmountable task, many of us quit before we even start. “It’s too much work” or “I have so far to go” or “I can’t” become our mantras when instead we should be reminding ourselves, “Just one step at a time.”

Good health IS hard work. It requires daily commitment, one choice at a time. But that’s also the good news – instead of saying, for example, that you have to eat healthy for the rest of your life or that you must never ever smoke again, resolve to make your next decision a healthy one. Don’t think farther than that. By doing so, your journey to good health is broken down into a series of choices rather than an unwinnable, all-or-nothing, endless road.

Now instead of “I have to get in shape,” your goal becomes a single choice: Wake up today a half hour earlier to exercise or sleep in? Make your choice, and just like that, the challenge is over. Move on to your next choice: Do I take the stairs or the elevator? Choose, and you are finished. Every new choice brings a new challenge and a new opportunity to finish well: After work, should I walk the dog or watch TV? Should I toss the football around with the kids or just watch from the sidelines? At the end of your day, you could have completed dozens of individual challenges. That’s quite an accomplishment.

Whether you make the right choice or not, it’s important to put each choice behind you after it’s over. Yes, be proud that you had oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, but don’t believe that entitles you to a bacon cheeseburger for lunch. What to have for lunch becomes its own independent choice. Similarly, don’t give up hope if you happen to make a few bad choices. They are over and done with, and the next choice presents a brand new opportunity to get back on track.

Some people prefer larger goals, and if you’re one of them, then by all means, make a large goal. “I want to lose 50 lbs” or “I want to run a marathon” are wonderful, challenging goals. But when the going gets tough and you feel like throwing in the towel, remember that you don’t have to run 26.2 miles – you just have to make it to the end of the block. Significant goals can be broken down into many little challenges, and many little finishes add up to huge accomplishments. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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