Not that long ago, the inviting green button at the bottom of these pages said, “The first step is the hardest.”
Full confession? As I’ve worked with more clients—and paid closer attention in my own life—I’ve realized that it just isn’t true.
There’s often something that leads us—sometimes shoves us—toward taking that first step. Sometimes it’s a particular deadline or season.
A thud at rock bottom.
At that point, the sense of needing to do something—anything—propels us forward. There’s fresh wind, energy and enthusiasm for that first step, so it probably isn’t the hardest one.
More likely, it’s the 36th step that’s the hardest. The 482nd. The 1,053rd. There comes a time that we’re reminded that change is hard. The shiny and new loses its luster, the hope and promise we had when setting out seems pretty far off. And let’s be honest: It can be all too easy to get mired in that dissonance of feeling the work and not yet seeing the result.
It can be all too easy to give up. Anyone who has EVER set a New Year’s resolution can relate.
May I offer some encouragement here?
Maybe this is right where you are, in that 1,053rd weary step. Or maybe this is something you can just tuck away in drawer of your brain, available to pull out as a resource somewhere down the line. Because no matter who you are, at some point you’ll be faced with learning something new, with wanting something different—with wondering how much longer it will be before you actually see that change come to pass.
Whether you don’t know what the next step is—or you don’t feel like you have the energy or drive left to make it—try taking a brief detour for this S.T.E.P. instead.
S: Set yourself up for success.
When you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated or just simply tired, revisit your bigger-picture “why.” It also helps to envision—down to the detail—what life will be like on the other side of the change you hope to make. Shifting the focus from, “If I don’t change this, then I’ll have to…” to, “If I do change this, I will be able to…” might just free up a bit of fresh energy.
T: Take stock of your tools.
The ability to set goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, relevant and timebound—is one of the greatest skills a person can develop. But it’s not enough just to set goals; there also has to be some accountability involved in meeting them. Tell someone. Write them down. Engage a coach.
E: Ease up on the self-criticism.
Again, change is hard, and feeling the loss of momentum doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. “Remember that failure is an event,” Zig Ziglar reminds us, “not a person.”
P: Push through. Just. Keep. Going.
Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” But I also like this, from Tony Robbins: “The only thing that’s keeping you from getting what you want is the story you keep telling yourself.” The way you think about your challenges—and the way you talk to yourself about your ability to overcome them—are important. This goes beyond just giving yourself a pep talk—though sometimes, that can be exactly the kick in the pants you need. It might also mean taking a moment to think back to a past success—no matter how minor—to relive that sense of accomplishment and to ponder what it was that allowed it to happen last time. Chances are, there’s a skill, strength or lesson learned in there somewhere that can help you move ahead once again.
During a recent session with a client, we talked about the dangers of the defeatist phrases that begin with, “I always….” Together, we came up with an alternative that I’ve found as helpful in my own life as she has found in hers. We replace, “I always…” with, “In the past, I….”
Your yesterday doesn’t have to equal your today. And your today doesn’t have to be your tomorrow.
Change is hard, but change is possible. Perhaps all you need is a S.T.E.P. in the right direction.