Charting Course by Focusing on Our Graduallies

Christian Growth

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually, then suddenly.”

These lines from Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises reveal a lot about the human experience when it comes to success and failure. There is pain and shock when the world collapses beneath our feet. Then there is the realization that this outcome was quite predictable.

Once we calm down and reflect, we can usually pinpoint where we went wrong. The conflicting intentions, the minor procrastinations, the blind eyes we turned. Like cracks on an ancient rusty bridge, they don’t matter the one hundred times we safely cross — until one day they do.


Photo: Pixabay


It’s common to the human experience that we’re rarely motivated to act unless a crisis is upon us. We see this over and over in school, in business, in relationships.

While things are still working reasonably well, we hit the pause button on the complex, structural things. Only when something large and irreversible happens — when we risk losing it all — are we compelled to act. Often too late.

Media headlines the suddenlies. We pay attention to the suddenlies, the things that happen in the moment, when the graduallies, the things that have been happening over time, should be our focus. In the graduallies, we achieve excellence.


Students often describe moments when they feel like a concept or skill has suddenly ‘clicked’. As educators, we know this is rarely the case. In reality, it’s the result of hours, days, weeks and even years of preparation and development.

When we pinpoint the graduallies that led to that exciting moment of success, we show students how to be even more successful. One way is through setting updatable SMART goals. These are goals that are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measurable
  3. Achievable
  4. Realistic, and
  5. Timely

SMART goals build reflection into the learning process and help students identify how their commitment to day to day habits and behaviours pay off.


As educators, we are forever learning. We’re learning about the art and science of teaching, how to best incorporate new curriculum, how to improve communication with our school families, how to develop our organisation in ways that are most beneficial to our school community and bring glory to God.

This requires research, prayer, and discernment. It also requires strategy — a road map that shows us where we’re heading and how we’ll get there.

Excellence demands consistent graduallies. Endurance, effort, self-reflection and wisdom propels us toward the destination we seek. Day by day, year by year, we improve, build, earn and learn until, quite shockingly, we find ourselves ‘suddenly’ successful!

One at a time, graduallies contribute to a good, strong foundation and avoid a path that ‘suddenly’ collapses beneath our feet. The best thing about graduallies? We can make a start from wherever we find ourselves.

This post is the fourth in a series of four articles.

Additional Reading:

Read more about setting smart goals in this article by Professor Maurice Elias from Edutopia.

For the full article detail, read Charting Course: gradually then suddenly (link no longer available).


CO-AUTHORS: Principal Leanne Entermann and former Enhanced Learning coordinator Debbie Cosier produce a series of articles called Charting Course for Brisbane Adventist College.

This article was originally published on the Brisbane Adventist College website, and has been adjusted for use here. Article written and posted in Australian English.


Leanne Entermann is the Principal of Brisbane Adventist College, Queensland, Australia. Leanne writes a series of articles titled Charting Course in which she explores topics important to the future direction of this secondary school. Read more at

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