Small Steps = Big Results

“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.” – John Wanamaker

I have read and listened to a lot of books this year (I’ll post my entire list in my next blog post) and many of them were on personal growth and development.  Some of my favorite topics to read about in 2018 were about change and accomplishing big goals, because, well, I’m a coach and psychotherapist, and change and accomplishing goals, whether they be external or internal, is what I help people with.  I’m also a human being myself who struggles with change and doing what is necessary to achieve some of my goals at times.  In fact, as I write this, I’m getting ready to start over on a fitness routine, because I signed up for a 5K run that is scheduled for January 12th and it has been months since I have been running. 

When I signed up for this 5K, it was with the intent that I was going to run a marathon in 2019, or if not in 2019, then shortly into 2020, depending on what marathon I decided I wanted to run. 

For the record, I haven’t been running in months.  The last race of any kind I ran was over three years ago and I just happened to get lucky that day because I was wholly out of runner’s shape.  Turns out when you get into a higher age bracket, there are less people in it so your chances of placing are even better. 

It’s easy enough to jump into a 5K or maybe even a 10K without having trained and make it through without completely dying, but a marathon?  That’s 26.2 miles.  I’m not even sure how many miles a 5K or 10K are or even if they are miles but I’m damn sure it’s not even close to 26.2 of them.  This is going to take some serious training on my part and also some serious behavior change.

So I bought a training program on Amazon, complete with training programs for 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons.  When I first opened up the training calendar, I nearly laughed out loud at the training program for the 5K.  Nine weeks?  That seemed a bit unnecessary, even for me.  But then I remembered when I had a goal of wanting to be able to run for 30 minutes straight about 15 years ago.  I had never run in my life, so I had no idea how to start doing it.  I mean, obviously I had run before, but only in short bursts to and from the fridge between commercial breaks, so I knew how to move my legs in order to elicit a run.  But 30 minutes was a whole other ball game. 

I found a training program somewhere.  I think the Internet wasn’t even really a thing yet, so I probably went to the library and found it in an old-fashioned book.  This training program was ten weeks long.  And talk about small action steps!  Week one had me walking for nine minutes, running for one minute, repeat twice more, three times a week, with each week increasing your run time by a minute and decreasing your walk time by a minute.  I followed this action plan diligently, and don’t you know it, at the end of ten weeks, I was running for 30 minutes straight without stopping. 

Anything we want to accomplish in our lives, we have to have a plan and plan out all of the action steps, big and small.  We have to either find a plan of action from someone who has already done it, like with running, or we have to get creative and make one up on our own, like with your own personal mental health goals and big life goals.

One of the things that I learned when I worked in community mental health was how to develop a treatment plan, and while I hated having to do them because of all of the red tape that went along with them, learning how to do it was invaluable.  I’d sit down with a client and I’d ask what they wanted their life to look like a year from now.  We’d break that year down into three 90 day quarters.  And then we’d break those quarters down into months, weeks, and finally, days.  And as we worked our way backwards in every domain they wanted to change, I’d finally arrive at the question, “And what is the very first action step you have to take?”  Usually, the answer was not mind blowing.  Usually the answer was, “I have to get online and gather more information” or something like that and sometimes the answer to that question isn’t even known yet, because along the way we find a mental block or limiting belief that needs to be addressed before being able to move on. 

Many times in our lives we have a goal and we start jumping ahead of ourselves.  We don’t plan.  We don’t prepare.  We don’t research.  We start trying to run a half-marathon before we’ve even walked around the block.  We start trying to walk around the block before we’ve researched the best running shoes to buy.  You see where I’m going with this. 

It’s the small, daily action steps that we take that will get us to our goals.  We have to get honest and meet ourselves where we’re at and not skip any of the things that are actually laying the foundation for our successes.  What do you want your life to look like a year from now?  Try breaking each of your goals down into quarters and then breaking it down even further.  What is the very first step you will have to take to meet your goals? 

There’s no shame in the small daily action step game.  As far as I’ve been able to tell, it’s truly the only way to accomplish most of what we want to. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go walk for five minutes and then jog for 25 minutes.