As I have spent the last several weeks in recovery mode from shoulder surgery number four, I had some mixed feelings about starting all over on rehab and physical therapy. It is frustrating going back. At the same time it can be inspiring. The work is just as hard but there is another chance to accumulate little victories. Little victories and the small benchmarks that prove you are headed in the right direction.
Little Ones Victories
The topic of little victories is something I have talked about as a guest on other podcasts but have never really written about here. For me, little victories came in bunches as a kid. I was in sports and every weekend there was some sort of competition. Some chance at a win. Even days we lost, I could have had a good game or done something I didn’t before. Another little victory.
Even without sports there are victories to be had. Maybe it was the first dress rehearsal that was perfect. The first time figuring out a math problem. (That one might not work as math is sorcery) Even learning to tie your shoes or ride a bike is a little victory in itself. First steps have to be the best little victory ever as they symbolize freedom!
The little victories came often if you knew where to look. Much like the recovery from surgery when another degree of range of motion is celebrated and (hopefully) the victories come fast and furious.
As we age it is almost like we grow out of victories. By the time you hit the working world the distance between victories can be measured with a calendar instead of a clock. Maybe a quarterly or yearly review that your boss says you did well. Maybe a raise, or finding a new job. But for each of these victories there is a price to pay. Fifty rejection letters before you land the job. A year of spreadsheets and zoom meetings before you get the raise. The plateau’s are long before a short blip of achievement. Sometimes it is more of a peak and valley where the highs have to maintain the lows.
The same is true while recovering. The goal smashing comes fast at first but begins to taper. The body can only do so much so quickly. The frustration begins to settle during that first plateau. Even when you can see the finish ahead it looks a long way off. The plateau can be long or short but it is hard to tell while you are on it.
I felt I was in an ever lasting plateau. Jobs that moved the finish line and lessened the prize for victory. My previous three shoulder surgeries all ended on an endless plateau that led to another visit with a knife instead of finding an end. Back to the bottom of the hill.
Then I found hiking. Hiking was hard. I sweat, I swore, but I kept going. Slowly inching towards the top of the hill. Then the craziest thing happened. I made it to the top, the peak. I saw what my hard work had led to and it was a sight to be seen. Surrounded by natural beauty I found my little victory.
The next hike was still hard but a bit easier. At the end there was another reward, another view, another accomplishment. More little victories! Before long the hikes got easier even as they grew longer and steeper. The rewards became better and were coming fast and furious again like when I was a child. A waterfall here, alpine lake there, at the end of each hike was a reward. I felt better and better everyday. The little victories began to stack up. While each one felt great, the fact that I could go out whenever I wanted and have that feeling again was addicting. It was like I just scored a touchdown, or aced a math test whenever I wanted. Each peak I found myself on was at the same time a pat on the back and a helping hand. Little victories had pulled me up and made me feel unstoppable.
It took me a while to figure out how important the little victories of hiking were. I didn’t need to climb Mt. Everest everyday I just needed to start something, challenge myself, and prove that I could do it. Instead of waiting a year to listen to a boss fumble through a review filled with buzz words I could just look at where I was standing and know what I accomplished. Plus, I knew I could do it again and have that same feeling the next day.
Even days I couldn’t finish my hike or achieve my goal felt better. The plateau was smaller now, and I could always see the end. The next hike I would have a chance to finish again. Another chance to move forward and another chance for little victories. What you achieve can’t be taken away when you can look at your feet and see where they have taken you.
So keep an eye out for those little victories. If you are having trouble finding them, maybe give a hike a chance. Even if you can only go a mile or so the first time, if you go a little further the next time it is a little victory. Sometimes that is all we need.
More from the Fatman
If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy more of the posts on my Fatman’s Rambling page. Blogs such as “Hiking Alone not Lonely Hiking“, “Winslow, Arizona” and “Screw it, I’m Trying” as well as many others may interest you there. If you have any comments or topics you would like me to cover, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Or you can keep the conversation going by following me on any of the below social media platforms.
Beautifully written and well grounded piece. You’re right…the little victory concept applies to lots of life’s frustrations. Also, timely for me as I’m currently in rehab after a surgery. Keep on hiking and writing….you’re helping lots of us!