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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 it is the way forward. Fear can hold us back, and try to emphasize the distance to the end goal. Or, the range of options may seem overwhelming. But in every step, no matter how small, there is the possibility for life and connection. The journey to greater health, purpose and fulfillment is as much about the process as the destination. Each step that you take 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 step you’ve taken. With every small step you take, you’re learning a new way and experiencing the powerful person you are. You are capable of more than you might think.

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

Many Small Steps = Big Change

Change can feel uncomfortable and scary, but it’s the only way to discovering more of the hope, health and connection that we each seek. You don’t have to understand how everything will play out, or even everything that you need. Focus on the step in front of you. Everything meaningful in life starts with a single step. Mountaineers don’t climb peaks by staring at the snowy summit, or the sheer sides. They safely climb by keeping their eyes on the next step in front of them. Don’t let the distance between your starting point and your destination overwhelm you. Climbing a mountain, or taking a trip, or developing a skill set, or building a relationship — pretty much anything significant in life — is not comprised of one or two or three large actions. Rather, it is the result of continuing to take small steps toward the desired result. Stories are a powerful tool to stir hope and courage to take a step 

Research has supported the value of breaking goals into a series of manageable tasks in order to increase the likelihood of achievement. In Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch, they highlight multiple examples from cleaning house to achieving broader social change where splitting the large goal into consistent, smaller mini-tasks increased productivity.

So, as you’re thinking about your personal journey toward recovery, or just greater fulfillment, make a list of possible next steps you can take in the process. This could include items such as:

— Learn more about counseling and treatment by reading more OneStep resources

— Tell a trusted friend or family member that you’re considering seeking help

— Asking your doctor during your next medical checkup

— Research 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 both help build momentum around a single goal and help you develop new skills.

Rejecting the Fear of Failure

As you’re preparing to move forward, don’t let the fear of failure delay or discourage you. Sometimes the fear of doing the “wrong” thing can keep us from moving forward at all. Or, we might be struggling to believe in ourselves, that we could actually experience the change which we hope for. 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. Your initial step may not feel perfect.

No matter what happens, if you keep stepping forward toward hope and health as best you can, you 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.

You may feel like you’re in a battle with the condition or situation that you’re facing. But that battle does not have to define you. If you keep taking steps forward, you don’t have to pass by this point again. And even if you find yourself making a decision that you regret, that decision does not negate or cancel out the steps you’ve already taken. It merely indicates that there are opportunities for greater healing and life ahead of you. Just take one step. Find the one you’re ready to take today. If you continue on the journey, regardless of instant success or not, you win.

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