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EDUCATION - KEY TOPIC

Finding Your Next Step

Overcoming Fear by Focusing on Our Next (Small) Step

Trying new things can feel uncomfortable or scary, but often, it is the only way forward. Fear holds us back. It distorts the distance to the end goal or makes the journey appear impossible to complete. We must remember that the journey to greater health, purpose, and fulfillment is as much about the process as the destination. Each step that you take, no matter how small, matters. Focus on celebrating the steps you’ve taken already — even reading this article — and pick a next step that resonates with you. Build on the momentum of the steps you’ve taken. You are capable of more than you may think.

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“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” — Lao Tzu

Many Small Steps = Big Change

Everything meaningful in life starts with a single step. Mountaineers don’t climb peaks by staring at the snowy summit, or the sheer cliffs. They safely climb by keeping their eyes on the single next step in front of them.

Don’t let the distance between your starting point and your destination overwhelm you. Climbing a mountain, taking a trip, developing a skill set, building a relationship, or doing pretty much anything significant in life, is not comprised of one or two or three large actions. Rather, it is the result taking small steps toward the desired result.

Research supports the value of breaking goals into a series of manageable tasks in order to increase the likelihood of success. In their book, Switch, Chip and Dan Heath  give multiple examples of how splitting a large goal into consistent, smaller mini-tasks increases productivity, from cleaning a house to achieving broad social change. The same applies to your personal journey toward recovery, or just greater wellness or fulfillment. Smaller, mini-steps might look like:

  1. Learning more about counseling and treatment by reading more OneStep resources
  2. Telling a trusted friend or family member that you’re considering seeking help
  3. Asking your doctor during your next medical checkup
  4. Researching nearby support groups you could attend

When you complete an item, check it off the list, and celebrate the progress. You’ll find that repeating this process can help you build momentum towards a single goal and help you develop new skills.

Rejecting the Fear of Failure

As you prepare to move forward, don’t let the fear of failure bring delay or discouragement. Sometimes the fear of doing the “wrong” thing can keep us from moving forward. Self-doubt causes us to fear that we could never experience positive change. The process of recovery involves learning how to try new things, and overcoming the fear of failure that keeps us paralyzed. Life and recovery is about progress, not perfection. While doing your homework about the resources you seek is important, waiting until a “perfect” option appears is not a great strategy either. Our initial steps may not feel perfect, but they are better than not moving at all. Stories are a powerful tool to stir hope and courage to take a step. Learning from those who’ve travelled similar roads can provide a map, or at least a starting point, for your own journey. No matter what happens, if we keep stepping forward toward hope and health, we are winning.

Embrace the Journey

Your process toward greater mental health, peace and fulfillment in life may take a dozen steps. Or it may take more. It will likely include some steps that you try, only to realize they aren’t a great fit. It may include a lapse. Not every step may work out like you think, but that’s okay. It may include the need for more significant forms of professional help. It may include a spiritual awakening. But regardless of what it includes, the most important aspect is staying open to finding the next step. The antidote to the fear we may be experiencing is found on the other side of the step. The connection, acceptance, help, joy you’re looking for is on the other side of the step. Regardless, the most important aspect is staying open to finding and taking the next step.

At times, we may feel like we’re in a constant battle with the condition or situation. But the battle does not have to define us. We never have to return to where we are today. The more steps forward we take, the more distance we put between ourselves and the condition or circumstance. And even if we find ourselves making decisions that we regret, that decision does not negate or cancel out the steps we’ve already taken. It merely indicates that there are opportunities for greater healing and life ahead of us. Just take one step — start today!

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