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Pace Yourself (Forward)

“Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself accordingly.” - Amby Burfoot

We’ve all heard it before; “take your time,” “don’t overwork yourself,” “life’s a marathon, not a sprint. pace yourself.” It’s a sound motto that can be applied to life in a lot of ways. But if life really is like a marathon wouldn’t you also want to do well at it and not just settle for a participation trophy. To this end I would like to tweak the saying a bit to say “pace yourself forward.”

When you pace yourself you normally have a goal in mind. But since it's a long way off or will take a lot of effort, you limit (or pace) yourself so you don't exhaust yourself on your way there. And as with everything you put any amount of time and/or effort into, you improve, so by the time you're done it's easier than when you started. Pacing yourself forward takes advantage of this by saying "if I can handle more as I go along, why not reset my goal a little further?" As you keep growing you keep resetting your goal further and further and before you know it, you've sailed past your original goal, no problem. In a sense, when pacing yourself forward, growth and self improvement in itself has become a part of your goal.

To use myself as an example, I’m an artist. When I figured out that I wanted to get into making comics I set for myself the goal of making one long-running comic series, setting a pace of practice writing and sketching to get started. At first I was overflowing with story ideas and preliminary sketches and designs. This was all good, but I didn’t just want to make a comic, I wanted to make a good comic, so I set my pace forward. I pushed myself harder and in unexpected (and sometimes painful) ways, in the process discovering a lot of weaknesses (practically all of my writing up to that point had been a bad rip-off of my favorite anime) and getting the opportunity to fix them. At the same time I honed my skills further and even developed some new ones (I’m apparently a lot better at vector-art than I thought I’d be). Along the way I ended up scrapping my original goal of a single long-running comic, but exchanged it for a stand-alone anthology series (Anecdotes) which ended up getting me commission work for a second anthology series (Missionary Biographies) as well as inspiring me to also make a weekly comic strip (Bert Bites). And the craziest thing is that all this happened in the span of roughly 2 years, I never would have even dreamed of getting this far this quickly when I started.

I guess the point I’m trying to get at with all this is to not settle for “just alright.” Keep pushing yourself further, even a little bit in whatever you do and you’ll be surprised where you end up and how quickly you got there. So pace yourself, but pace yourself forward.

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