Taking Your Time: The Power of Gradual Progress

‘No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time: you can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant’ – Warren Buffett


Close friends and family know I’m a big fan of ChiRunning. So much so, that I’m training to be an instructor. ChiRunning’s taught me a great deal, about my running and myself. But the biggest lesson is the power of gradual progress: learning slowly day by day, baby step by baby step. Taking the time to master each stage before moving to the next, until what seemed impossibly difficult becomes simple, natural, part of who you are. Gradual progress has taken me from perennially injured runner, barely able to run for 20 minutes, to training for my first marathon for 12 years.

Gradual progress doesn’t come easy. I don’t have the patience. I want results and I want them now. When I first tried ChiRunning, I skipped through all the ‘fundamentals’ and jumped straight to ‘begin running’. I figured I could work out the technique stuff on the fly. I was wrong. Trying to ChiRun without understanding what I was doing just felt unnatural and odd. After a couple of attempts, I gave up and the book gathered dust on the shelf for several years.

When we learn as kids, we do so baby step by baby step. We crawl before we pull ourselves up on the furniture; walk before we run. We don’t learn cursive handwriting on our first day at school. Yet as adults, if a new skill doesn’t come easily, too often we give up and move on. When I tried ChiRunning for the second time, I took it slowly, learned each element before moving to the next, and if something felt wrong, went back to first principles to work out why. Now I can’t imagine running any other way.

Gradual progress isn’t easy. There’s no instant success, no short cuts. It takes persistence and patience to keep practising day after day after day. Sometimes gradual progress can feel like glacial progress…zero progress…the opposite of progress. Then something clicks, drops into place, and you realise how far you’ve come.

Gradual progress challenges the stories we tell ourselves, the limits we set: I can do this, but I’m no good at that. We dive in at the deep end and give up when we don’t immediately start swimming. Yet it’s amazing what you can build when you create it day by day, baby step by baby step.

Posted in Learning.