Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Step by Step

I have about four days before I get back on the treadmill of school. I will be taking two classes over the summer. I can't believe I am about halfway through my M.A. already. One thing I have been thinking about recently is how far you can get just by doing something a little bit each day. School is an example of this in that if you just keep taking a class here and there, you will eventually find yourself with a degree and you won't even know quite how you got through all those classes and credits. You just do it.

This concept applies to a number of things in life. We are often told to look at the big picture and that can be helpful, but if you have a project that seems insurmountable, take it one step at a time. Thinking about the big picture will scare you. Think instead of what you must accomplish today, this week, this month. That is all you need to deal with. That one step at a time thinking will get you a degree, significant weight loss, and anything else you want in life.

So often, people think they have to do everything right now. Well, you don't. Time is on your side and it's never too late to be who you might have been. I went to law school with people in their 50s. Do you think they thought "It's too late. I'm 55, I'll never be able to finish law school?" Nope, they took the plunge. The water may be icy at first, but you get used to it and before you know it, you are swimming to that far point that you never thought you'd get to.

Nike is on to something with their ubiquitous advertisement of JUST DO IT! Honestly, that is all it takes. Wake up one morning and sign up for one class, one gym, one volunteer committee. Untangle your goals one strand at a time. You'll be surprised at how quickly you'll find yourself on a smooth path, ready to face the next task.

A wonderful example of this is Betty Ann Waters. Her brother, Kenny Waters, was convicted in 1983 of murdering a woman by beating and stabbing her to death during a robbery in 1980. His sister, Betty Ann, knew that he was innocent. Her mother, a nurse's assistant, spent what little savings the family had on expensive legal appeals with no results. So his sister decided she would just do it. A high school drop out and unemployed single mother of two children, Betty earned her GED, enrolled in college, earned a bachelor's degree and graduated from law school. She did it all through 16 long years of studying by day and waitressing/bartending by night.

Her tenacity didn't stop with her education. She hounded the clerk at the courthouse and learned that a box of evidence from her brother's case was in the basement and inside that box was blood evidence from the crime scene. Criminal investigatory techniques had come a long way since the 80s and perhaps the most important innovation was DNA testing.

Betty Ann enlisted the help of the Innocence Project, a group that helps inmates challenge convictions with DNA evidence. The material was tested and her brother was not a match. This meant that after 22 years in prison, he was a free man. Why? Because his sister took it one step at a time and had the patience and tenacity to keep doing a little bit each day until the final goal was met - her brother walking out of prison a free man.


Anonymous said...

That story is one of the many compelling reasons to oppose the death penalty.

I have had many patients who are ocnsidering, mid-life, to return to school. I always encourage them to do so - never too late to make your life better.

Dauphyfan said...

Simply put and AMEN!

Jaime said...

This is amazing! I would never have known about this story unless I read your blog.

P.S. I hope I'm not the cause of some of your missing sleep...err...