(Spoiler alert: Take ONE STEP forward today, even if you don’t feel ready)
Recently, I’ve been fascinated with the work of James Clear, in Atomic Habits. There is one quote, which I love (and I’m paraphrasing), but he tells Brene Brown in a podcast: “We are an Ironman nation… not content with just walking or running a few miles every day, putting in the consistent work, and getting the results we desire. We crave adrenaline and big goals.”
For me, this is something I’ve been focused on lately at work and in my personal life. I was an international distance triathlete until three years ago, and a college athlete before that; but after a bone spur surgery on my right foot, I’ve had many starts and stops. I have tried rowing, rollerblading, and even online strength workouts at home to fill the gap. Nothing fills the serotonin cup like running for me. But I’ve learned to keep moving forward without a perfect solution. I believe in taking the “next small step” every day (often by hiking on nearby trails). And it is helping me gain back my fitness results!
Similarly, I hear from clients that they get stuck waiting for the perfect solution for their job search, trying to be the ideal Dad or Mom, or waiting to move forward on a new business idea they have been thinking about for years. I hear from teenage kids that they are overwhelmed making a decision about the perfect college for them. Other versions of being stuck include waiting to plan a trip, update a resume, or begin a self-care regimen until the perfect timing strikes. Here are a couple of tips to start reaching your goals.
Begin where you are
The 80-20 rule (Pareto Principle) was often used at Procter & Gamble, where I worked on the Walmart team. “80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your efforts,” they say. But ‘which 20 percent?’ is not always clear when you’re trying something new or making a change in your life. So, we start thinking, planning, analyzing, and searching for the next move (the “right 20%”) and we get stuck. Maybe we believe “the good is the enemy of the great,” but with that belief, we can begin getting zero percent of the results. Much better to begin where you are, and your “good” actions and habits will often lead to the great!
Take the first step!
Meanwhile, we live in a far more dynamic work (and life) environment now than 10 years ago. In his book Life is in the Transitions, Bruce Feiler writes about how past generations could expect a more linear career and personal life, maybe even staying in the same town and with the same company and same friends for 20, 30, or 50 years. Not so today! Often, we reinvent ourselves on an annual basis due to unexpected changes he calls “disruptors” …or bigger versions called “lifequakes.” Leading a nonlinear life requires new tools… and great adaptability.
So, given all of the changes and the need for flexibility and action, what is a person to do? Instead of analysis paralysis, or inaction due to information overwhelm, or the common tendency to overthink, take the first step!
Have a coach join you
As you take that first step, you’ll learn, and the next step will be revealed. Use a flashlight when you don’t have a spotlight, and walk down the path toward what you want. Ideally, have a coach join you, and they will ask questions and provide resources that might help you to both see with a broader flood light and to move faster.
Remember the Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
So, instead of waiting for the perfect solution, or for all to be completely clear and risk-free, or waiting until you have a huge and perfect plan sketched out… take that next step! Take a small step today and then another one tomorrow to start reaching your goals!
When I start working with clients, I often encourage them to do a 4-week “jump-start” plan – to meet with me every week for one month and then transition to every other week. The results have been phenomenal. Limiting beliefs evaporate as action is taken, and momentum gives them a new light in their eyes and energy in their actions. Clients are amazed with their progress, and I’m thrilled too because they took that first scary step and gained self-awareness and self-confidence as a result.
The first step doesn’t get you to the finish line, but it does reveal your inner wisdom. And taking a step every day DOES get you to the finish line! Momentum accelerates as you move forward to start reaching your goals!