I’m a list keeper. Until recently, my lists have been just to-do lists – work, home, personal development, fun things, goals, dreams and so on. For me, these lists help keep me focused on what I’m working towards and it shows me how to get there.
Recently, I read a story that showed me how important it is not only to keep a to-do list – a list to keep you focused on what you’re working towards, but also a done list – a list of accomplishments and tasks to show you just how far you’ve come.
The story is about Florence Chadwick, who in July of 1952 set out to become the first woman to swim across a body of water between Catalina Island and the California coast, just south of Los Angeles.
Florence was already a world-class distance swimmer. She was already the first woman to swim across the English Channel, which is about the same distance.
On the morning of July 4th, Florence started her journey under a blanket of heavy fog. Heavy morning fog is common on the California coast, but usually the skies are clear before noon.
On that day, however, the fog did not clear up. For 15 hours, Florence swam through the sea and through the fog with support boats at her side. Every time she looked up, all she could see was murky grey in front of her, behind her, and all around her.
With no tangible evidence of her goal or her progress, Florence felt defeated by her task and asked her trainer to pull her from the water. When they finally reached the shore by boat, Florence was crushed to learn that she was only half a mile from reaching her goal. She explained later that the fog had prevented her from seeing the coast, and she didn’t know how close she was. Pushing forward without knowing whether she was making progress was demoralizing and ultimately caused her to give up.
Later that year, Florence attempted the swim again. And just like the first time, an unrelenting heavy fog settled over the water and did not lift until the next day. Even though the weather was the same, things were different for Florence this time. This time, despite the fog and zero visibility, she didn’t give up. She not only became the first woman to complete the swim, but she beat the men’s record by two hours!
She later explained that this during this second attempt things were different – even though she couldn’t see the shore, she could picture it in her mind and she knew her goal was there.
This story is an illustration of how important it is not only to see your goal in front of you, but also to track and reflect on your progress to see how far you’ve come. Just as it was with Florence Chadwick during her first attempt, it could mean the difference of knowing when to push just a little harder for success.
Images: 1,2, 3