I was honored to be asked to contribute a chapter to The Better Business Book, a book of 100 business and life lessons, each from a different co-author. My chapter is titled, “The Power of a Single Step,” and I’m sharing it here for a reason. So often, in January, we feel the need to do everything for our health … exercise every day, eat only healthy meals, be “perfect” in terms of our health … and that feeling is overwhelming. Rather than get paralyzed by overwhelm, I encourage you to take just ONE step for your health today. Maybe that’s all you’ll do (but it’s still one step ahead of where you were yesterday!), and maybe you’ll take another one tomorrow. Here, I want to share an excerpt from my chapter, which is Chapter 2 in the book! If you want to read more, get your copy at bit.ly/thebetterbusinessbook!
The Power of a Single Step
Richard Branson once said, “if your dreams don’t scare you, they are too small.” I fully support setting big goals in most areas of life. After all, without a goal, we have no idea how much we achieve. As it relates to our health goals, though, we are encouraged to set such lofty resolutions that we fail to appreciate small steps in the right direction. No longer is exercising three times per week sufficient, we resolve to exercise every single day of 2017 … for three hours. No longer can we celebrate making a healthy meal of salmon and grilled vegetables, we have to commit to a more dramatic fad diet or restrictive meal plan.
I love the idea of pushing ourselves to our limits, and I do believe that setting goals encourages us to be our very best selves. There is just one small problem. When goals seem so far away, we are often paralyzed by fear and overwhelm. There is so much to do, so much progress to be made, that we find ourselves simply unable to start. We may care so much about attaining the end goal that we are terrified by the thought that we may not be able to attain it if we start trying … so we just don’t start. That way, we won’t be disappointed.
The single most important thing you can do to achieve that scary, aspirational, seemingly-impossible goal is to take the first small step. Once you take that first step, take the next step. After that one … you guessed it, take one more.
You see, we are so often focused on where we are now, or where we want to be, that we gloss over how to actually get there. Regardless of the goal, though, you won’t get there unless you take that very first step.
In my practice of helping clients find their happiest and healthiest selves, I counsel many people who have significant amounts of weight to lose. If a client wants to lose 150 pounds in a healthy and sustainable way, he knows he’s not going to get there overnight. The prospect of losing two or three pounds in the first week seems so insignificant that it is easy for him to convince himself not to even start. “Great, you’ll eat as healthily as possible, give up all the things you love, maybe even do a bit of exercise … and you’re still 148 pounds overweight?” he might ask himself. Surely, it seems easier to grab an extra cookie and settle into a night on the couch.
When we are thinking rationally, this example seems silly. We all know that being 148 pounds overweight is better than being 150 pounds overweight, and that once we take that first step, we can gain motivation from seeing results, beginning a cycle of positive reinforcement. But when it comes to our own big, lofty goals, we are often not thinking rationally. We live in a culture of overnight success, and we are enraptured by products that claim to help us drop 20 pounds in a day or build a business in an hour a week. It is sexier to share successes on social media than struggles, so we often tell ourselves that if we are not there yet, we are not good enough. That one step we took didn’t make us a supermodel, so we might as well go back to the way we have always been. You see how we will never reach our goals if we are locked in the grip of this self-perpetuating cycle.
What is the solution, then? Set a big goal, even one that scares you, as Branson advises. Spend a few minutes getting excited about it, ensuring that it’s the right goal for you … and then forget it. Put on blinders and focus solely on getting yourself to take that very first step. Once you take that step, celebrate! It doesn’t matter that you’re not there yet, or that you still have 148 pounds to go. All that matters is that you are on your way. You have conquered the very hardest part of the journey, and with your blinders on, you’ll repeat the process until that lofty goal of yours is reality … and then maybe you’ll keep going.
Now it’s your turn … What is one challenging (but rewarding!) single step you’ve taken that you’re proud of?