Find the first step


footprint.jpgChoice is a good thing, but it can be paralyzing. Five kinds of cereal is a snap; 50 kinds can be a nightmare.

Even good options can be frightening. Sometimes, I find myself overwhelmed with possibilities. I could do this or this or that. I end up doing nothing.

And one task can be as daunting by itself. Take buying a house. Where do we even begin?

But a way out exists.

I’ve tried various organizational tools at work and at home. I’ve kept things in to-do lists, in my head, on a calendar, on sticky notes. It’s a mess.

But one thing I’ve remembered is something I picked up at a leadership training course.

Find the first step.

(The other steps are important, too. In fact, finding the first step falls in the middle. Stick with me.)

In any task, like doing the laundry, we have steps to complete. One way to tackle these projects is to list every step involved.

  • Gather dirty clothes.
  • Wash clothes.
  • Have detergent, bleach, fabric softener and dryer sheets.
  • Sort dirty clothes.
  • Dry clothes.
  • Check labels for special instructions.
  • Sort dry clothes.
  • Fold clothes.
  • And so on.

But in that long list of steps, one comes first. Sorting the list determines the order. Whatever comes first is the first step.

It sounds overly simplified, but laundry isn’t that difficult. Buying a house, like I did a few years ago, is much more complicated.

I didn’t know this method at the time, but I did take a first step. In my case, I believe it was go to the library. Because the next steps were to find beginners’ books, check them out, read them, take notes, schedule a credit evaluation, and on and on and on.

After step No. 400, I had a house.

But step No. 1 was go to the library. It’s not like the proverbial journey of a thousand miles, because each step is the same.

It’s the psychological barrier to starting something new. I’m going to learn how to cook. I’m going to take a vacation in the mountains. I’m going to find a plumber.

We don’t consciously think about every step we take in a task most of the time. We just do — and hope.

Defining the first step is a huge accomplishment. It can give us momentum to move forward in our lives to important goals and necessary tasks.

And it tells us how and where and how easy it is to get going.


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