Flying in Place
Just because it may look like you’re stuck, doesn’t mean you are.
Having just crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on my bike I began climbing Hawk Hill, a beautiful ascent into Karl the Fog that I’ve become rather fond of. But this morning was unlike the others. Strong head winds made for a tumultuous push to the top. I was in my highest gear, legs making concentric circle after concentric circle—but no matter how much I pedaled, I felt stuck in place.
As frustration began to mount I looked up and saw a bird flying about 50 feet above me. It was clear to see that she was fighting through the same resistance—stationary, just like me, even though I could see her working hard in an attempt to move forward. All of that effort and yet there she stay, caught in some painful vortex that seemed to have no end.
As I watched her I realized that we were sharing the same experience. We were both putting out a high amount of energy for what seemed like no return. No matter how hard I worked, I felt like I wasn’t moving an inch. No matter how hard she worked, the same result occurred.
We were both … flying in place.
And I’m willing to bet that everyone reading this has felt that way before, maybe even at this very moment. You’re hustling at work but not getting the promotion, you’re struggling to reach your partner but it simply isn’t working, or no matter how many people you approach about a book deal you still get told No thanks—you’re putting in work for what seems like no return. You’re flying in place.
I think back to that morning ride. After what felt like an eternity struggling I found myself breaking through, as did my counterpart in the sky. The next thing I knew we were both at the top of Hawk Hill, she admiring the ground and I the clouds. After some serious work and a heaping portion of self-doubt, I reached my goal. For all that time I was flying in place I was making headway, small gains towards my goal that are so small they can’t be caught by the human eye. My mind had been playing a cruel trick on me, something the human mind can be quite good at. It’s enough to make someone give up, turn around, and never look back.
But when you’re faced with that decision, keep pushing. Because even though it may seem as if you’re not moving forward, you are. Flying in place is only an illusion. If you’re working hard, you’re moving forward. The effort you’re putting in will pay itself off in the long run, even when it seems unbearable in the short. You’ll get that promotion, you’ll break through with your partner, you’ll get that book deal.
Flying in place is only an illusion. If you’re working hard, you’re moving forward.
So the next time you feel like you’re putting in a ton of work for little to no return, check yourself. Look back and remember day one, when you first started whatever it is you’re working on, and look at how much progress you’ve made. And think about the amount of progress to come—that’s an exciting feeling! Break through the wind, the feelings of doubt, and your own mind telling you there’s no point. Before you know it you’ll be at the top of the hill looking down at all the ground you covered.
After all, accomplishments feel the sweetest when they’re truly earned. So go earn it.