Several years ago, on the first day of my 12-month “Grow Your Lifework” program, I invited my class to make “vision boards.” These are collages that portray goals. One participant was skeptical. She said, “I make these collages but they never actually help me accomplish anything.”

I explained that the collage wasn’t meant to magically manifest her goals. She would need to take consistent action in order to make her dreams come true. The intention of my class was to teach her how to create steps so she could follow through.

That was two years ago.

Many of the program participants have accomplished a great deal since then, so imagine my surprise when I visited the blog of a different program participant and saw an image of her collage followed by a comment that read (paraphrased):

Not one item on my collage has come true.

At first I was embarrassed. Then I was disappointed in myself. As her teacher I wanted to see her succeed. Had I failed her somehow?

But I know this participant. Not only is she a former client, she is also one of my closest friends.

Since I know her well I could easily reflect on her current situation. What I realized is that she’s accomplished a great deal since she completed that collage.

In fact, she’s done more to grow her business over the past two years than she has in the entire time I’ve known her.

It’s easy to overlook our micro-accomplishments

Sometimes our accomplishments feel so small we barely notice them. Any great vision, though, is made up of a lot of tiny steps. Each step carries us closer and closer to our ultimate goal.

When we ignore these micro-milestones it’s easy to feel deflated. It’s easy to believe we’ve done nothing because our lives don’t look that different than when we started out. At least in the beginning.

However, when we recognize our micro-milestones for what they are – small steps on a big journey – it’s easier to let our little accomplishments create momentum that propel us further onto our path.

To give you an example, I’ll share my friend’s “micro” accomplishments.

For starters, she participated in several marketing programs (including mine), building know-how and experience along the way.

In the process, she befriended two well known bloggers who have huge followings. She now has great connections and support when she’s ready to leap.

She created her own professional looking website, something most people should never attempt, but my friend is both tech and design savvy, and she did a fantastic job.

She started painting beautiful watercolors and displaying them on her website.

She posts to her blog relatively consistently. This is a huge accomplishment.

She created a value-packed, free e-course to help introduce her work to her clients.

She created a video to introduce herself and her work.

And to top it off, she’s a full-time, corporate employee who has spent the past two years working 60-80 hour weeks. (Fortunately, she has a new job and is no longer required to work such long hours – so you can add that to her list: left one job, started another one.)

Yet she felt like she hadn’t accomplished anything on her collage. Why? Because she isn’t as far along as she’d hoped to be.

But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t accomplished a great deal of her goals. In fact, she’s done a remarkable job.

Establishing a solid foundation takes time and patience

The initial stages of self-employment can feel slow, especially when you want to be fully immersed in your dreams and goals NOW, not in a year or two.

But life doesn’t usually happen that way. That’s because growing your lifework is like growing a garden. First you plan what you want to grow. Then you till the earth, plant the seeds, weed, water and wait.

Weed, water and wait.

Weed, water and wait.

And eventually a tiny green shoot appears and then you wait some more.

Self-employment is exactly the same. First you plan. Then you prepare your environment (website, blog, e-course), then you market and wait.

If you’ve done a good job of planting the right seeds (ideas) for your environment (niche and passions) and you consistently water (market), then your work will grow. But it takes time and consistent action.

Self-recognition is important

Self-employment is challenging. It’s easy to feel discouraged. It’s easy to feel less than excellent. It’s easy to feel off track.

And none of these feelings are inspiring. In fact, they are often oppressive.

It’s important to recognize your accomplishments because when you focus on what you have created you will feel inspired. When you feel inspired you are more likely to keep the momentum of your work moving forward. Momentum is a huge part of successful self-employment.

Have you accomplished more than you realize?

I suggest reflecting on the following questions:

What do you have now that you didn’t have a year ago? (Clarity? A plan? A website?)

Two years ago?

Five years ago?

Take a moment and think about this. Be honest. You might even ask a friend to help you reflect on what you have now that you didn’t have one, two or five years ago. Sometimes it’s helpful to get a fresh perspective. We often gloss over our mini-successes.

If you aren’t as far along as you’d hoped, don’t worry about it. Just celebrate your micro-milestones. Revel in them and let them inspire you.

When you do this it will be much easier to grow somewhere greater!