Boston, MA

The Pattern of Natural Progression

Bill Abbate

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Everyone is familiar with the old saying, "you have to learn to crawl before you walk," and its cousin, "you have to walk before you run." The essential meaning behind these sayings is learning or grasping basic skills before tackling something more advanced. This concept applies to all of life.

There is a natural progression that exists everywhere. It begins when we are born. We lie there, sometimes sleeping and sometimes crying. We begin to make sounds and learn to smile within a few weeks. Before long, we roll over for the first time, and in a few short months, begin to crawl. Then comes the trial-and-error process of learning to stand and walk.

"You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over." Richard Branson (1950-present)

More months pass, and the little tyke is running and talking up a storm!

The natural progression of everything in life

This progression continues through our lives, eventually physically peaking while we continue to grow mentally. You will find the pattern of natural progression everywhere. It occurs in small and big ways and applies to our overall life and countless instances within life itself.

The thing missed by some in using the metaphor of walking before running is that the running will return to walking. However, over time even that will disappear. That is the full reality of living on this planet. We are here for a relatively short time, but something in us drives us to be active and productive in society.

"Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows." Pope Paul VI (1897-1978)

You can use this pattern of natural progression in life to your advantage when you recognize where you are in it. Let's take a look at a typical example and how it plays out. For this particular illustration, we will look at my life from birth to retirement and beyond.

A look at the full pattern of natural progression

As a young man, I could run like the wind; however, my mind was still crawling as I went through school and gained experience in some early jobs. Finally, my mind progressed to walking, giving me wonderful times early in my career. Within a few years, I was up and running. I ran for decades and was one of the fortunate people to train regularly through continual self-development efforts.

I was blessed to have made some great strides during my years, completing many marathons. My running culminated with a work history of more than 40 years.

After retiring, I continued to produce good fruit until I had the unfortunate experience of a sudden and rapid decline in my health. An unexpected series of four consecutive widow makers in one day rocked my world nearly to the point of death. When I came out of intensive care 55 days later, I could barely crawl out of bed into a wheelchair. It took a lot of physical therapy, but I slowly started to walk again.

As soon as I was walking well, I attempted to run and could do so for short distances; however, the heart damage was too great, so I had to hang up my running shoes. But hey, at least I can walk again and do so every day!

This does not consider how my mental capacity was affected. Up to the day of the event, I was still running mental marathons. Here I was in retirement, doing exceptionally well with my part-time business. The heart attacks were a significant setback for a time. I went from running mental marathons to walking slowly for a good year. Despite my physical health, I took off running mentally once again. Before long, I was running a marathon as I finished writing and finally published my first book.

By the way, if you have never written and published a book, be prepared to do a real mental marathon!

After publishing the book, I started publishing articles on my website and LinkedIn. To date, I have written and published nearly 500 articles on Medium, Newsbreak, LinkedIn, and several other places. While I may not be able to run physically any longer, I can still run marathons with my mind!

Applying the pattern in your life

Take a look at where you are in your career. Are you about to crawl into your first job? Or have you been walking for a few years now?

Some people make it to the walking phase in their career and life and are happy with being there for the long term. Others will seek more and want to start running.

If you have never run, are you willing to do the preparation necessary to begin? (we are talking metaphorically here!) Then, when you begin having real success in your career, you will be able to run longer distances and eventually start doing marathons.

"If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon." Emil Zatopek (1922-2000)

The main thing to recognize about running in your career is the amount of preparation it will take. While you train one way for regular 5k's and 10k's, you must take the training to a whole new level to run marathons.

Not every runner cares to do marathons, and it takes a great deal of preparation and training. But once you run one, you will want to run more. You achieve the pinnacle of success in doing so.

As you go through the stages of crawling, walking, running, and doing marathons, keep in mind one day, you will start to wind down. While you can maintain the pace mentally, your body will eventually not be able to keep up. Prepare for that day. Retirement is a natural part of life, and when you enter it, why not enjoy it to the max? It is all up to you and how you want it to be, so why not make it great!

Final thoughts

The pattern of natural progression applies to practically every area of life. You will find it applies beyond your career, in your marriage, relationships, children's lives, spiritual life, and in practically everything else you do. You will even find it in your retirement one day!

Give it some serious thought. Consider where you are and how you wish to prepare for the next phase. As in all things in life, the better you understand them, the more you can benefit from them. It's your life, and you only get one chance at it, so why not make it the best life possible!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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