Seven days until “race day.” When something as big as a lifelong goal is finally so close, things just feel weird. I simply don’t have a better word. Some details are big, and I have planned for those over the course of time: training, gear, nutrition. Some are smaller, and I haven’t really thought about them until recently. For example, “how in the heck am I going to wake up at 4AM and not be a zombie on race day?” hasn’t crossed my mind until recently.

I am not an early riser. I work in the service industry, and even though my restaurant closes pretty early at 10PM, I usually get to bed around midnight. My body likes to sleep until about 8AM. But, on race day, I will be waking up at 4AM. So, over these final two weeks leading up to my Ironman, I am backing up when I wake up to get my body used to that early morning. I thought that I would maybe just wake up early the day before and the day of race day, but a friend of mine actually recommended I do something a little different:

The first four days, I woke up progressively 30 minutes earlier each day (7:30AM, 7AM, 6:30AM, 6AM), and now I am progressively waking up 15 minutes earlier every day. I will continue this all the way to the day before race day, which I will wake up at 4AM, same as the day of. This should help me normalize going to bed a little earlier, and also make race day not feel so incredibly early. I want to avoid being asleep on my bike and groggy if I can help it!

I thought her idea was brilliant, and it seems to be working pretty well. (Today, for example, I woke up at 5:45AM, and it was the first day that my body responded like, “Yeah, this feels like a normal time to wake up. I don’t hate you!”)

It also got me thinking about how most things are done incrementally. 15 minutes a day, or small steps, are how we get anywhere. I feel this sentiment so hard right now, but it’s true in any space. So many people have responded saying that they could “never do an Ironman.” But that’s just not true. You could maybe not do an Ironman tomorrow, but small steps over the course of almost 3 years have gotten me to this point. I am a completely different person now than I was then.

Financially, this couldn’t be more true. No matter if your goal is to get out of debt, save for something small, or save for something big, it all happens gradually. No one just wakes up and has fairy dust to sprinkle on their debts, making them disappear. No one just wakes up to enough money to go on that trip, or retire. It starts with 15 minutes a day of researching or changing habits.

I want to dive back into Spanish (I used to be fluent, but have lost a lot of that) and also learn French. Now, I would be crazy if I thought I could simply wake up and speak French tomorrow. But I can instead commit to finding a few minutes every day to weave learning into my world. Check back in September, 2021, and maybe I’ll be trilingual!

This is just as true in even bigger spheres, like social change. When gay marriage was finally legalized in the U.S., President Obama had the following words:

“Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back, propelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens,” he continued. “And then sometimes, there are days like this when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

President Barack Obama

We’re stuck in a year that makes everything seem like time is standing still. But, small actions do lead to big things. And sometimes 15 minutes a day is all it takes to be rewarded with a “thunderbolt.”

Gradually, we arrive. Keep that persistent effort in your journey, and I’ll keep it in mine.

Get fired up! I’m a believer in lists! Make a list of a few things that you want to see happen in your life or in the world, and take note of what you can do for 15 minutes a day to make it a reality.

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