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The Valley of Disappointment

Who hasn't been there? Sometimes even on a daily basis right? This concept from James Clear in his book "Atomic Habits" (one of my featured books) resonated so perfectly with what many of you have described (and I have experienced).


You start something with all kinds of excitement and energy, imagining how great it's going to be and then it gets hard and not fun anymore and you aren't seeing results so you give up. This can be for whatever habit, whether it's working out, drinking green smoothies, practicing your art, anything. But the cycle is the same as depicted below in Clear's book:

From Atomic Habits, James Clear

J. Clear says that progress is different than we think it's going to be. We think it will be linear, we think we'll just improve every day and see progress every time. So we get frustrated if we don't see that because we expect it. In reality though, progress doesn't work like that. "Habits often appear to make no difference until you cross a critical threshold and unlock a new level of performance," he says.

That is exactly what happened to me in my art journey. For a couple of years, I worked at it - not consistently because I would get discouraged and stop but I did work at it (If I had known about the valley then I might have been more consistent). And I really didn't see much progress, a little but not what I was looking for at all.


Then over a series of a few weeks, things began connecting and exploding. I went from someone not confident at all and not producing much that I liked to being able to consistently and confidently create art I love. It really did seem sudden, kind of magical and like it came from nowhere. I had trouble explaining it until I learned about this Valley.


J. Clear calls this "breaking through the Plateau of Latent Potential." It's because you've laid all that foundation. Just as a plant needs it time to grow it's root system before we see it's beauty.


This cycle repeats itself with any new skill we want to acquire and I've learned to spot the valley coming and now rather than get upset I try smiling inside and thinking, "Oh, there's the valley, that means I'm making progress."


So have faith and enjoy the journey. and by just consistently doing one small thing toward our goals we will see progress.


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