Monday, May 4, 2009

The First Step

Breaking down a long-term or daunting task into several smaller, attainable goals is a widely accepted bit of advice. One step at a time, you'll eventually achieve what you want. It often works pretty well for me with things about which I am passionate or deeply committed. But in my moments of laziness or fear, the same practice can work against me.

I sometimes allow a goal to seem so convoluted and complex that I never actually make progress. And it can be anything. The less I think I want to do it, or the more fearful I allow myself to be about the outcome, the more steps I create. My mind can make things seem absurdly complicated. "I don't know if I really want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. First, I have to open the cabinet and get a plate. Then I have to get the bread package, open it up, pull out a couple of slices of bread, and put them on the plate. I'm going to have to open the silverware drawer and find a knife. I have to go into the pantry and look for the peanut butter, then I have to open the jar of peanut butter, take the knife and dip it into the peanut butter jar..." and on and on.

Not that I do this when I just want a sandwich, but it really can be anything. I'll even write down a list of the steps I want to take to accomplish a long-term or daunting task, and then I'll conclude that I have accomplished something. I have a list of smaller targets, so getting to the larger goal should be a walk in the park. That's worth a pat on the back. But then every time I look at that lengthy list of smaller, short-term tasks, I get exhausted just thinking about starting in on them.

Sometimes it serves me better to just dive in once I have a destination in mind. Constantly planning out a course might be a great organizational exercise, but if I never start following the plan, it doesn't amount to much. I can figure out the intermediate benchmarks and course correct along the way, but the most important thing is getting that first actual step behind me. Once I am committed to heading in a particular direction, every step along the way becomes easier.

No comments:

Post a Comment