Have you ever noticed that the longer you look at something you should be doing, the more difficult it seems to appear? That the longer you put off something you should do, the more difficult it is to get started?
A good deal of frustration and unhappiness could be avoided if people would just do what they know they should do.
The great newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane once wrote, “Don’t exaggerate your own importance, your own size, or your own miseries. You are an ant in a human anthill. Be a working ant – not a ridiculous insect pitying yourself.” Strong language, maybe, but there’s a lot of sense in it.
A person carrying a heavy weight is all right as long as he keeps moving. The minute he stops, puts the weight on the ground, and sits down to rest, the weight seems to become heavier; the distance to be traveled, greater; and the work, just that much more unpleasant.
Sometimes it must seem to everyone that things have piled up so high that there’s just no way of digging out. But there is. Pick the thing that’s most important to do, and simply begin doing it. Just by digging in, you’ll feel better, and you’ll find that it’s not nearly as bad as you thought it would be. Keep at it, and before long, that pile of things to do that seemed so overwhelming is behind you – finished.
What overwhelms us is not the work itself. It’s thinking how hard it’s going to be. It’s seeing it get larger every day. It’s putting if off and hoping that somehow, through some miracle, it will disappear.
The Chinese have a saying that a journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. And that step accomplishes two things. First, it automatically shortens the distance we still have to travel, and, second, and just as important, it makes us feel better, more hopeful – it strengthens our faith. If a person will just keep putting one foot in front of the other, he will be taken into new and exciting places, see new and interesting things, and think thoughts that never would have come to him if he’d remained at the starting point. Then the journey is finished. He wonders how or why he could ever have sat so long and worried and stewed about the time and trouble it would involve to do what he knew he should do.
If you’ll think back, you’ll remember that you’ve always been happiest, most contented, after having finished a difficult project or faced up to a responsibility you were worried about. It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be, and the joy that will come with its accomplishment makes it more than worthwhile.
Work never killed anyone. It’s worry that does the damage. And the worry would disappear if we’d just settle down and do the work.
As Calvin Coolidge put it, “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work. Work is not a curse; it is the prerogative of intelligence, the only means to manhood, and the measure of civilization.”