Another January has rolled around bringing with it a fine dumping of snow, seasonally appropriate temperatures, and the beginning of another legislative session with the concomitant budget battle. I won’t to be talking about any of these things- they’ll wait. Instead, I want to talk about the end of 2020; eleven and half months from now. What do you want to be different a year from now? What’s within your sphere of control or influence where if there was a change your life would be better? For each of us there’s very likely some unspoken life, monetary, health, spiritual, educational, or relationship goal just waiting for us to put one foot in front of the other and move that one step closer towards making that goal a reality. I learned from my father that ships don’t just come into harbors; if you’re standing there on the proverbial pier waiting and hoping, you could be there a very long time. For most of us, if we want positive change, we must play our role in manifesting that new reality. Let me show you how to identify a personally meaningful change and make the first steps towards making it a reality in 2020.
Identify What You Want
There’s an amazing thought tool out there called “The Miracle Question” which goes something like this:
Close your eyes for a moment. It’s a year in the future and you’re waking up in the morning. As you rise from bed you experience a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment; there’s a lightness of being about you as if some weight has miraculously lifted itself from your shoulders. There’s no one around to tell you what’s occurred so you set about trying to find out why you feel transformed. What do you notice has changed?
Obviously, it’s impossible to read the miracle question and close your eyes at the same time, but after reading it take a moment to close your eyes and ask yourself the miracle question.
Define the Steps to Get There
One of the biggest challenges in making change is that we see change as one giant step between where we are and where we want to be. The enormity of the change can create a mental chasm that seems insurmountable and we forget that every change can be broken down into a series of much smaller steps. Imagine yourself as the head of NASA in May 1961 when President Kennedy first issued his challenge of putting Americans on the moon by the end of the 1960s. In that moment your agency is just 2 years old and it’s 20 days after the first American went into space. In that moment, we haven’t even fully circled the earth in manned spaceflight. You have no rocket capable of getting to the moon, no vehicle to get there let alone land, and once you get a crew there you have to bring them home. Kennedy’s challenge is such a far-off idea that no one has even invented the necessary math. What do you do? You figure out the steps that you need to complete to get from here to there. For NASA defining the steps meant pursuing multiple tracks. Within a year the agency had developed the Saturn I rocket which would eventually evolve into the Saturn V and John Glenn had orbited the earth three times in Friendship 7 as part of the Mercury-Atlas Program. Mercury-Atlas evolved into Gemini and Gemini into Apollo and Apollo put us on the moon. Apollo didn’t just happen; it was a journey of thousands of steps.
Take the First Step…
So, if you’re journey going to take a thousand steps where do you start? With the first one, of course! The key is to make the first step manageable but meaningful. I’m at my best when I exercise regularly; a minimum of three days a week. I like my exercise to be outdoors, inexpensive, and to have a low barrier to entry (limited specialized equipment or facilities). I particularly benefit from running and Nordic skiing, but there are shoulder seasons (and periods like the last ten days) when weather conditions can make those activities untenable or just simply unenjoyable. Over the last three months I haven’t exercised enough because first there wasn’t enough snow and for the last week or so it’s been below the temperature where I find Nordic skiing enjoyable (Full credit to those of you who are still out there rocking the trails at -5F). The answer to my personal miracle question was to make 2020 healthier than 2019 and that means more regular exercise. If the weather won’t cooperate, and I’m unlikely to enjoy skiing below zero or running when the ground turns hard, achieving my goal means joining a gym. I loathe gyms, but after much thought I decided that first step in the journey was to visit a bunch of gyms to find one I didn’t loathe. So, my first step wasn’t something unreasonable it was simple step: Go visit a gym. Your first step to a great 2020 can be something similarly simple.
…And then take the Second
They say the first step is the hardest, but I think that the second step can be just as hard (potentially harder). Think of taking the literal first step when you start walking. When we take the first step we’ve moved forward, but we still must drag the other leg forward to take the next step. After that it gets easier because we have the momentum of our steps to carry us forward. It’s the same when embarking on the journey towards an amazing 2020. We take the first step (i.e., visiting a gym) and then we take the second step (i.e., picking a gym). Every additional step after the first two will be easier to take.
Be Reasonable with Yourself
There’s a saying in the coaching industry that says, “If we treated our friends like we treat ourselves, we’d be in jail.” We are our own worst critics and that criticism can short circuit our progress towards achieving your goal. If your goal is saving $500 a month and you only sock away $100 in a given month don’t declare yourself a failure. It’s not an all or nothing game. Incremental progress counts especially if you ask the question “How do I do better next month?”. Give yourself credit for progress made and stay future focused. We don’t drive the road by looking in the rear-view mirror.
Jonathan’s Takeaway: Whether your amazing 2020 will come from achieving a financial goal, taking an amazing trip, finding more time with family and friends, or finding a place to work out when the weather is tough outside, taking the first step forward is the only way to get there. I won’t wish you “good luck”, because you don’t need it. You just need to put one foot in front of the other and repeat.
For the record, the author signed up for a gym membership just before he sent this blog post out. Next step, get to the gym.
Jonathan King is a consulting economist and Certified Professional Coach. His firm, Halcyon Consulting, is dedicated to helping clients reach their goals through accountability, integrity, and personal growth. Jonathan has 23 years of social science consulting experience including 16 years in Alaska. The comments in this blog do not necessarily represent the view of employers and clients past or present and are Jonathan’s alone. Suggested blog topics, constructive feedback, and comments are desired at firstname.lastname@example.org.