“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ve been speaking with a number of people lately who have been in one stage or another of overwhelm. You know the feeling when you just don’t know which way is up or which direction you need to even point yourself. This can be exhausting and you’re not even moving!
In the space of personal development there is a lot of talk about taking imperfect action as a response to this “feeling stuck” or overwhelm. I am not sure how you are supposed to know if it is perfect or imperfect action until you take it. So this advice is rather unhelpful in my opinion.
In the case of my clients I use my life experiences to give insight to what worked for me. This is not scientific or a certified process developed by some guru. This is just my simple practice that I have used when I am feeling overwhelmed or unsure. It has gotten me through some pretty tough times and brought me to where I am today. I continue to use this method as I continue to dream big and have NO idea how I’m going to make these dreams come true, but I know that I must pursue them. It has become a habit and a way to check in and stay present in the midst of all I aspire to create.
I take a few moments, usually in bed at the time I wake up and I just lay there with my hands extended and open, my eyes closed and just revel in that perfect moment. I often use this time to think about my gratitude, simply for waking up (a gift we often take for granted) and for whomever might be next to me (these days it’s my dog) or in my world at the moment who brings me energy and joy.
After gratitude comes my talk with the Universe or God or whomever you talk to when you are in your space and simply ask, “What is the next step?” I don’t ask how I’m ever going to do what I’m wanting to do. I don’t ask for the full picture or to see the whole staircase or the money, energy or capability to take the next step, I simply ask to know what is the next step.
Why it works for me
I don’t know if I developed the process because I just couldn’t handle looking at all the steps or more likely because there was so much to do I just had to look at the one next step because that was all I could manage at the moment. I knew I needed to keep moving but wasn’t sure what the next move was and staying where I stood was not an acceptable option. I had to find a way to clear the overwhelm to be able to begin to move.
Here is the deal, you might see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s damn dark where you stand today. Truly you can only take the next step, you can’t take the 3rd step in front of you, only the next step, so ask what that is. You might surprise yourself and find, as I have, that over the course of time this simple process takes you exactly where you are meant to be and you didn’t even notice how far you had gone.
Why it will work for you
Simply by taking the next step you continue to move. By asking each day what the step is for you today, it gives you the possibility to course-correct if necessary. This process provides you focus on today. It helps you reduce anxiety about step number 45 because day 45 will come and you’ll deal with that step then. Today your only need is to know what you need to do today and then do it, knowing that you get another chance tomorrow.
Keeping your mind on your overall goals, but focusing your attention on this moment, this day allows the actions you take to be exactly perfect for today. You will learn something by what you do today and it will benefit you along the journey.
So tomorrow morning when you wake up, instead of going through your “to do” list in your mind and trying to figure out how you’ll get everything accomplished, and anything else that comes to your mind upon opening your eyes I ask you to pause. Take the first few moments of the day and give thanks and gratitude for all that you have and quietly ask, “What is the next step for me to take today?”
To the enjoyment of your success and the journey that brings you there.