Brick by Brick

By Tomas-Antonio Rodrigues – Providence, Rhode Island

“You don’t set out to build a wall. You don’t say ‘I’m going to build the biggest, baddest, greatest wall that’s ever been built.’ You don’t start there. You say, ‘I’m going to lay this brick as perfectly as a brick can be laid. You do that every single day. And soon you have a wall.”

— Will Smith on Charlie Rose

“Read this quote again, and again, print it out and glue it to your planner; tattoo it on your forehead.” …..This is what I said to myself when I first read this quote.

It is an easy lesson to forget, we have such high expectations of ourselves and “shoot for the stars, change the world” type of goals that we forget the old adage: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” But if we lose sight of our short term objectives and keep obsessing about how far we are from accomplishing our goal it will simply lead to wasted energy lamenting that could be put to more productive use.

But what is it that causes us to feel this need to build Rome in a day? Here is a break down of just one of the many possibilities, and for the sake of not wasting energy, some suggestions on how to change your mindset to more efficiently use your energy toward reaching those worthwhile goals as well.

For this article we will tackle the problem of comparing ourselves; this seems to be a big one, and comes in a couple forms. First lets discuss the comparison to someone else. Maybe it is a sibling, co worker, classmate, friend, current love interest’s ex love interest or any person of the same sex in general. In this case we have to keep in mind that while we are all people and have much in common, we all have very different journeys. Judging our own success on that of another is mindlessly ignoring the fact that each day a million different things happen which will effect us differently than other people, and at least half of it was out of our control.

We should not use it as an excuse to be less than who we are, but instead as a reason to keep our eyes focused solely on our path, and putting energy towards being the best we can in each situation. Maybe we will never be as “successful” as the person who we were comparing ourselves to, but when we start living life to our full potential we will realize that we care less and less about keeping score, and are too busy with the drastic improvements from our current lives.

Which brings us to another dangerous form of comparison; comparing ourselves to where society seems to tell us we should be. Being a 25 year old undergraduate student, still living at home, with no girlfriend, or a generous flow of income, I have fell victim to this pity party more than I can count on my fingers, toes, and teeth. However, this is another nonsensical way to view success. I know plenty of people who meet the seemingly unwritten “requirements” which is pressured upon us, but will admit to being unhappy, and feeling unfulfilled in his or her lives.

We live in a society in which productivity is measured in dollars. Thus the measuring stick for success will be how productive you are at making money, and being able to provide for yourself should be part of your goal, but it isn’t the only aspect. Keep in mind that it the tomatoes who take the longest to grow which are usually the juiciest. Imagine if someone cut down all their tomato plants at exactly 2 months regardless of how each individual tomato is doing? Sure some would be good, but some would need a few more days or weeks. Does that make those tomato’s somehow inferior? Of course not! Same thinking applies to people, some of us just need a bit more time to grow delicious lives.

Regardless of why it is that we seem to sometimes get frustrated because we aren’t already where we wish we were, we have to keep in mind not only is the best wall built “brick by brick” but even the best wall isn’t perfect. It is about laying down those bricks each day to the very best of our ability, if we add too much adhesive to one brick, then we do what we can do to remedy the problem best we can and then move on. But we if try to lay down each brick perfectly, we will then just add to our frustration, because perfect doesn’t exist. But if we can notice that our brick laying has been improving with time, we will be more motivated to keep building.

Oh and do not forget to take a few seconds to appreciate the wall you have built; but not for too long, that bad boy isn’t going to build itself.

Tomas-Antonio Rodrigues has been an ACE certified personal trainer for about 2 years now and runs a blog on his website

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