Slow Progress is Still Progress

June 10, 2024

There I was, stuck in a line of cars a half-mile long.

My destination: a public works recycling event for locals to properly dispose of household items large and small – electronics, car tires, cleaners and fertilizers – all types of things detrimental to the environment.

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Not Going Anywhere, Fast Or Slow

The wait was due to the massive amounts of hazardous materials people were unloading from their cars. Hazards ahead, we have lots of hazardous materials!

In my car: a small container of non-recyclable batteries and two outdated and non-working Kindles. That’s all.

I didn’t have much to bring, but, having committed to the drop-off, I sat in line, questioning how my engine idling was hazardous to the environment as I waited to drop off my limited amount of hazardous materials. Was I creating more hazards than I was disposing of?

This was not how I planned on spending this beautiful Saturday morning.

We weren’t going anywhere fast or slow. We were barely moving at all.

Kinda like other things in my life stuck in neutral.

What type of things?

Goals – short and long-term. Work projects started and stalled or abandoned entirely. Plans to get to the gym, get in shape, gain muscle, write daily, earn more income, be more helpful, volunteer more frequently, stop wasting time on Wordle, meditate regularly, get more sleep…

I took that time in my car, without much else to do, to judge myself harshly for not making better use of my time. That narrator in my head – the always present and not-so-helpful Squash – once again showed I’m my own worst enemy.

Why wasn’t I more productive? Why had I let so many things go? Was sitting here to drop off a small container of batteries and two outdated and non-working Kindles a worthy use of my time? Couldn’t I just toss them in the trash – environment be damned – and spend my time in more useful ways?

And that’s when I saw a sign. (Really, isn’t everything a sign if we know what to look for?)

The public works facility is located near a forest of ponds and hiking trails.

The road paralleled a bog filled with lily pads and tall reeds. The drivers in cars are not the only ones here.

A sign advised to be aware of wildlife. Slow turtle crossing.

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I turned off my car engine and opened the window. Amid the calm rustle of the leaves, a full conversation was taking place.

Several – or potentially dozens – of frogs burped and gurgled at each other in the bog. Dragonflies whizzed by. A hawk soared overhead.

I would have missed this moment had I only been focused on the non-moving line of cars in front of me.

Eventually, we snaked forward. (The cars… I saw no snakes though I’m sure they were there).

I turned my car engine on again, made it to the front of the line, dropped off my few hazardous items, thanked the public works collection members, and left much more speedily than I had arrived.

I didn’t see any turtles crossing the road though if I had, I certainly would have slowed and stopped for them.

They have somewhere to be and someplace to get to.

And they do, in their own time.

It made me reflect on all those projects started and stalled or stopped, on intentions and deliverables and pacing, and how often I feel I’m not keeping up with the world.

And when I fall behind, what do I do? I stick my head back in my shell, turtle-like, protecting myself from judgment or criticism, which you can never really escape with the judgment and criticism comes from within.

I vowed in that moment to stay present. To always take in my surroundings and consider the path. Where do I want to go next?

The pace matters less than the destination. Just ask any turtle. If you can’t take a giant leap, start with a single step and then take another one. 

How about you?

What’s something you’re working towards? How might you tune out distractions to truly listen and see? Why are you so focused on catching the elevator to success when there are more meandering roads to enjoy?

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What Might You See When You Tune Out Distractions And Truly Look Around?

Why not let go of external expectations or internal criticism on how long it’s taking you to get there? What if you just let yourself grow at your own pace?

Maybe the pace you’re on and the progress you’re making is just fine. Maybe you’re meant to enjoy the process rather than speed it up.

Even turtles have momentum. A line-up of cars will eventually drive on. You’ll lose those hazards you were so worried about and find the destination there for you when you arrive.

Valerie gordon web1 slow progress is still progress

Valerie Gordon is a former Emmy-winning television producer, an author, and the founder of career and communications firm The Storytelling Strategist. She speaks at conferences and partners with corporations to help high-achievers reach their goals through the power of storytelling. Follow her on LinkedIn or set up an introductory call to learn more about her services. 


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