“Moving the needle.”

Earl Nightingale defined success as “the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

Most people, when they think of success thing about the before and after. “I won this award.” “I acquired this thing.” Or I achieved this goal. But I’d argue that’s a near sighted way to look at it.

I know because I loved that way for a long time. And every time I reached the “after” of a goal, I would be left wondering “What’s next?”

Leading a successful life is more about moving the needle. Taking a step every single day toward that ideal—whatever a worthy ideal is for you.

An ideal is a BIG thing.

It can be simple, but it is BIG. And it’s different for everyone.

Whether it’s being the best parent you can be. Being the best spouse you can be. Being known as someone others can lean on. Being an expert in something…the list goes on.

Think about what an ideal day for you is… What do you do? How do you feel? Where do you go? Who do you spend your time with? What level of impact do you have on the people around you?

What does moving the needle look like?

Discipline and consistency over time is really the only way to move the needle in a significant way; taking action every day toward your ideal. It doesn’t have to be big every day. Just consistent progress.

Otherwise you’re taking 2 steps forward one step back. Two steps forward, three steps back. And in 10-30 years, your in the same place you started.

It’s not always pretty. But each time we show up and do the work, we are closing the gap between who we really are (inside) and how we appear (on the outside).

The book Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown starts with (and is titled after) the famous Teddy Roosevelt quote:

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the the man who is actually in the arena, who’s face is marked by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;

Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”

And that hits the heart of it. It can be scary to go after your ideal.

Even if you are bold enough to step into the arena, it can be hard to ignore all of the people in the stands. The spectators.

But chances are, if they really are judging you, that’s all they are… Spectators. The people that only showed up to watch. They aren’t there every day in the trenches, putting in the work. Striving themselves for a worthy ideal.

StoryAthlete, Heather Compton wrote the other day about “before and after” vs. “the middle.”

She described how people don’t like to talk about all of the uncomfortableness, awkwardness of figuring it out, the hard work and sacrifice, the pain and struggle, the temptations to quit, and all of the bad days when we almost give up on ourselves—the moments “in the middle.“

We would much prefer to see the “before and after.” The final product.

But why? The final product is what we show in the arena. This is where we go to be judged. This is where we present our best work to the world. All of the behind the scenes work that was hidden along the way leading to that moment is revealed to the world in one singular vulnerable moment.

It can be overwhelming to “put it all out there.”

But that story isn’t the story of “the middle.” I’d argue that the story of everything that happen in “the middle” is even more powerful. The story where we chose to move the needle every day…

If everyone chose to show “the middle” we would have more context and appreciation for the “before and after.”

Seeing the journey is more inspiring. To see how we all struggle.

Sure, it’s vulnerable. But it gives us the opportunity to encourage each other. To feel like we’re not alone on this journey of life.

It gives others the courage to move the needle toward their own worthy ideal every day knowing that its going to be hard in “the middle.”

But hey, we all struggle so it’s worth the effort. Just don’t be afraid to show it.

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