“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 taking small steps toward the desired result. It’s about learning to overcome fear and focus on your next step.
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:
- Learning more about counseling and treatment by reading more OneStep resources
- Telling a trusted friend or family member that you’re considering seeking help
- Asking your doctor during your next medical checkup
- 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.
Overcome 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 to overcome 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!