A few years ago I did a half marathon for the first (and last) time. I did it with friends and we would meet on Saturdays and do the “long run” together. In between we were charged with the “short” runs, stretching and strength training that the internet said we needed to do in order to prepare our bodies for the eventual 2.5 hour run (I’m what you would call a tortoise, not a hare) on race day.

The problem was… I didn’t really feel like it. I wasn’t feeling very motivated. Week after week I would show up at the long run having done one short run in between and a few of those weeks I hadn’t actually done ANY runs in between. And yet… somehow, even with terrible execution and a ton of novice mistakes I did prepare for and run a half marathon.

I learned something important that day: If you set an intention and then stumble around in that direction you will NOT GET NOWHERE. You will, instead, get somewhere!

Sometimes this is the best we can do. Hanging on by our fingernails, putting one foot in front of the other, staying motivated and not giving up and using every drop of grit we can borrow to not quit.

Those days are a WIN.

What surprised me the most is that those terrible decisions and half-hearted effort didn’t just create a bare-minimum survival story- they added up! They accumulated into skill, experience, stories, and battle scars. And eventually, those gave way to finisher medals, accomplishments, and wisdom.

Here’s a short list of things I’ve done exactly this way:

  • My first, second, and third Therapist and Coach Connection Hour events were all hail-mary efforts that I was sure would go nowhere. But I figured, wherever they don’t go, I’ll be there.
  • My first webinar… that was an unmitigated failure of over-effort and zero results. And it has been one of the best teaching stories I have. I’ve gotten more mileage out of that “failure” than any single “success.”
  • I decided one day to “grow my facebook page” and then proceeded to do so with half-hearted effort backed by inconsistency… and my facebook page has six thousand “fans.”

What can you give your half-hearted effort to, today? Can you write a lackluster post about your webinar? Can you reach out to prior clients with zero charisma? Can you sit down and scrape 3 email addresses off of the internet before turning your attention to Tiger King?

The real transformations and true victories come from these bored, tired, and uninspired moments.

PS- Obviously, consistent, motivated effort aligned with passion balanced against self care is a better strategy. And by all means, keep striving for that! But there will be days when that kind of advice feels like a naive children’s story told by people with “staff” who have forgotten what it’s like to be on the front lines. On those days, doing the barest of bare minimums is what separates those who ultimately “do it” from those who fade away.

About the author

Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist and business coach who helps accidental entrepreneurs get more clients and have a bigger impact. She is the author of Great Work, the host of the Unleashing Your Great Work podcast, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda's TEDx talk has received almost two million views and has been featured on TED's Ideas blog and Ted Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global.