While I was away at family camp last week in Colorado, I realized something:
We all need to mark time.
Here’s what I mean: This was my family’s third year to visit this same camp, so we’ve got some familiarity with it. That familiarity has afforded us a measuring stick with which we can see how much our oldest daughter (pictured above throwing some rocks into a Colorado pond) has grown.
Our first year at camp, she had just turned two and there were some real obstacles for her — the mountain terrain, the strange surroundings, and the big-kid activities. Last year, just after she turned three, it was easy to see she’d made some progress, but she was still very much a toddler compared to the older children at camp. This year, as a four-year-old, camp was an entirely different experience.
She graduated to the bigger, faster water slides; she could navigate the steep, rocky paths; she could find her own way around camp; she could swing by herself; she could climb a few more ladders and walls; she slept better; she ate the food in the dining hall; and on and on.
By returning to the same camp we visited in 2010 and 2011, my daughter’s growth was undeniable in 2012. We were able to mark time — Exactly one year ago, she couldn’t do that, but now she can! — and get a clear picture of how far she’s come from the little tot we brought with us the first time around.
Here’s the takeaway: You and I should should absolutely mark time in our own lives. Our organizations and teams should too. We should be intentional about reviewing how far we’ve come from one year to the next, we should survey our growth, and we should count our blessings.
I’m now convinced that marking time is an essential practice, both personally and professionally. Why? Because without marking time, I can easily fall into a couple of traps:
The first trap is the false belief that my daughter isn’t growing much, and neither am I. This is so wrong, but it’s hard to see it when you’re too close. Our growth is so gradual it’s often as imperceptible as the rotation and revolution of the Earth. We have to step back in order to see how far we’ve come.
The other trap I can fall into is focusing on everything my daughter (or I) can’t do yet. She’s only four, so there’s a lot she isn’t ready for, but I’d be a fool to focus on those things to the exclusion of what she can do. Marking time gives me better perspective and a better attitude — not only can I see the growth more accurately, I can be grateful for it. Sure, we have more growing to do in the year to come, but that doesn’t negate the strides we’ve made in the year that was.
So, look back at your body of work. Compare your first project to your most recent. Compare your Easter 2010 work to your Easter 2011 and Easter 2012 work. Can you see the progress? Are you climbing walls now you couldn’t climb in 2010 or 2011? If so, be encouraged.
You’re growing, you’re honing your craft, you’re developing into the best possible version of yourself. You just have to mark time to be able to see it.
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.