It’s a tale of process versus goal. Occasionally we’re faced with a block of time that, miraculously, is not filled with concrete obligation. Maybe a week, maybe a month, even a year. We might not know its duration (after a layoff, a divorce, an airport shutdown due to a volcano). But it’s useful to ask: What do I want to show for this time block?
If the answer is “nothing,” then it’s easy. No need to read on. Otherwise…
“Enjoyment is not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity.” - Paul Goodman
Some pursuits need constant attention to reach a certain desired state of being: bodybuilding, say, requires relentless daily and weekly exercise plus nutritional management. Or yoga. Or building an actively engaged and hungry digital audience. It’s about the journey itself. But back to bodybuilding: Rigorously pursued, the physique immediately reflects the activity and grows more toned by the week. But once the process ceases, the body immediately starts reverting to its pre-fitness state. So a few sedentary months later, you might have little (externally) to show for years of effort beyond impressive beach photos.
“Never discourage anyone... who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” - Plato
Other pursuits are more cumulative, and demand another type of patience, as a singular goal rather than a state of being is aimed at. Writing a short story (or collection), producing a web series, creating a tomato garden in the patio; these all require some quiet reflection and planning, and then persistent, hard work. Just like bodybuilding, but without the “high plateau” state of being: no outward, glamorous, exciting muscles to show off. But the buildup accumulates progress, brick by brick, and generally does not slip backwards.
And finally, the web series goes live, or the tomatoes appear on the vine. And when that period of time passes, no matter how gelatinous your abs, you can look back on your still-thriving garden or published short story with pride.
Simple concepts. And there’s no right answer. But if you fail to honestly identify to yourself which one you’re doing before embarking, you risk futility or disappointment.
So are you bulking up or building up?