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Opening the Jar

It happened again. Despite my many attempts, I couldn't get the lid off the jar. So I asked my husband to help.

He pops the jar open in an instant saying, "It practically fell off in my hand."

My frustration turns to humiliation (not his intention at all). He made it look so easy.

The other month I was home alone (a novelty since COVID) and was struggling to open another jar. With no one there to help me, I had to persist. And I realized my expectations were setting me asunder.

In my mind, I turn the lid and it pops open.

But the reality is much different from the image. There's a lot of smaller steps involved before the lid is off. To get to the grand finale, I have to make incremental shifts in the placement of the lid on the jar.

Difficult to turn lids come off centimeter by centimeter. When I reset my expectations, I can do it myself because I recognize I am making progress despite not having completed the task in my first attempt.

This analogy fits the reality of building a business or launching a program or learning a new skill.

When we are doing something new, it's easy to discount the many incremental steps required to get from beginning to end. Then, when we don't reach the finish line as quickly as we had hoped, we dismiss all the incremental progress we've made.

I've heard clients groan, "I feel like I'm getting nowhere." Or "It's like I'm running to stand still."

They're so close to the work they are doing they don't recognize the progress they have made. All they see is this big chasm between where they are and where they want to be. But the fact is the space between their reality and their aspiration is smaller than it used to be.

What's more, getting started often takes more time and effort as you navigate resistance. While you might not see much progress from your initial efforts, you're accomplishing more than you're giving yourself credit.

There are many lovely hikes in Colorado. There's one on the way to Estes Park where you hike up a steep incline for the first 1/4 mile or so. The climb is intense and it feels like you're getting nowhere. After a while, it levels off. You hike for a bit longer and end up with a grand view of Longs Peak.

The hardest part of that hike is the steep incline in the beginning. That's the same with opening a lid that feels stuck. Or working through a challenging problem. The beginning is not only difficult to navigate, our efforts may feel unsatisfactory because we are getting started not being done.

One of my clients felt like he stumbled over his words in executive meetings. He wanted to speak eloquently but after a few months of working together, he still felt awkward. "I just don't know what to do!" He lamented.

With compassion and understanding, I encouraged him to pause and reflect. Over the last few months, he'd gotten clear on his vision and what he was advocating for. He gained critical support for launching an innovative million-dollar project. He learned how to navigate difficult conversations to resolve conflict and elevate the performance of his team. And he'd become aware of why executive meetings triggered him to feel tongue-tied.

He'd done the hard work of improving his leadership skills centimeter by centimeter. Just like opening the lid of the jar, the next steps in his efforts came a bit more easily to him. Recognizing all his progress gave him the confidence to persevere on this one area of growth he so desired, which beats the alternative of just giving up.

Are you making the progress on the things you desire? Getting clear about what it is you're working towards and how you're going to make it happen is an essential part of starting strong. Check out the 2022 Annual Planning Workshop to gain the clarity and focus you need to make things happen this year. More information and registration is available online here.

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Keena Feier
Keena Feier
Jan 14, 2022

Lovely analogy! And absolutely critical - learned this the hard way...😫

Oh, and when you're ready to NOT go "centimeter by centimeter"... you can use a lever of some kind (kitchen knife, old-style can (punch) openers, flathead screwdriver, etc) to pop the seal, releasing the vacuum that holds the lid, and voila! 😁


Love this! I've reframed my perspective on progress this year - it used to be focused solely on if I hit a goal or not! (That did not work well for me.) I'll hold on to this lid opening analogy to make sure I remember: practice and action are progress.

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