I have heard, ad nausea throughout my life, myriad quotes about the power of taking the first step. They usually involve making a bold move, enacting courage, and putting yourself at risk in the spirit of living your best life. These are very noble and admirable actions and the first step is important. I have learned, however, through countless first steps of my own that the first step, without follow up, is a journey to the heart of exactly where I have always been.
The first two blogs I created are perfect examples of this. Each was begun and put out into the world with courage and hope that a message I would share could have impact. Those first posts were followed up by others with diminishing frequency until finally, due to the decay of atrophy and warm comfort of inertia, they ceased to be living expressions of my own reality.
It was not until recently that I realized what was causing my two previous blogs, and so many other false starts in my life to “die on the vine” was my focus on the attachment to what I wanted, what the goal was, without any presence on the impact of the current meaningful action that was available to me.
Tell me if the following sounds familiar;
You get really excited about starting a new activity, quitting an addiction, starting a workout routine, diet, or hobby. You google the hell out of any topic you can find so that you are sure you are getting it 100% right-reviews are read and friends are consulted. And then, the big spend occurs. You splurge on new exercise clothes, buy the patch, buy the 30-day program (MONEY BACK GUARANTEED!!!!) spend your rent at the grocery store, buy a brand new piece of equipment because you are going to CRUSH IT.
The first day of your activity arrives and you are 1-part hopeful adrenaline, 1-part “doing it for the Social Media Post” and 1 part “this is the time it sticks”. Everything you wanted to happen on that first day happens and yet, you are not 100% fulfilled. A seed of doubt creeps in and now you are noticing every exit door that is available to you.
At the gym you see someone with the body you want and know you will never have so “what’s the point?”
You get into a fight with your significant other and you really need a cigarette right now because this is just too much to handle all at once.
Work gets in the way and interrupts your planned one hour of writing, and how ridiculous was it of you to think you had time to write in the first place.
You have no time to make your special meal for this new diet, and this food is just going to go to waste so why bother.
And on and on you find every reason why the goal you set for yourself cannot possibly be reached. Rather than recommit or even declare an end, you just stop taking the next step, hoping no one else will notice. But you know. And in this non-choice of ceasing to act, a fog of the uncompleted hangs and although you don’t actively punish yourself for the non-completion, you start to craft a story about how life is just what it is and it may just be too late to change or try anything new.
The above is not some hypothetical creation. It is the way I have lived most of my adult life.
I had to quit smoking six or seven times before it finally stuck.
I have 5 workout journals spaced about 6-9 months apart, and prior to the most recent 3-month period of my life, I never made it past day 22.
Forget time for cooking and for a large portion of my life pizza existed as a primary food group.
I had to ask people to stop buying me journals because everyone I owned was a painful reminder that I am a failure at writing and I am not a person who follows through. I would even go to the length of starting in a brand new one as opposed to picking up where I left off in an old journal because I thought the new journal would “inspire me to really do it this time”. Failure, without the awareness to learn from it, can be a very expensive habit.
Much less so recently and for a large portion of my life, I have experienced the pain, humiliation and disgust with myself over tasks not completed, friendships left on life support, and grandiose promises followed up with non-action.
In these situations, I started with a goal. A better body, to be desirable, to be noticed, to have impact in the world, to make people like me, TO LOOK GOOD. Because I was so fixated on the goal and what it might get me, I eliminated any opportunity to be present to the process and when the initial action did not bring the reward I had promised myself, the next step was pointless.
What I have realized and what I want to share with you right now is that the step you are currently on is the only step that matters right now, and you have the power to shape what that looks like in your life, without adding any meaning.
I’ll give you an example of something I recently did.
In the ABOUT section of this blog, I originally wrote that I committed to posting something every day. When I wrote that, it felt very empowering and totally achievable. The next morning after posting my first entry, I realized I had no desire to post every day and that to do so would feel forced.
Right away I started to go down the rabbit hole. I was worried that changing my about page would be out of integrity and that I was already a failure. Changing the about page would be an admission that I don’t have the will power to follow through. A day went by and I didn’t post to the blog and the About section still had my published promise. I am not exaggerating when I say to you right here and now that I was ready to kill the blog. Every second I didn’t post something led to an exponential growth in the corresponding paralysis I felt writing anything or taking action. I wanted to throw up.
And then I took a deep breathe and stared at the blinking cursor. I read the title of the blog THE DAILY PRACTICE OF LIVING and realized that this is the practice. With that, I went to the ABOUT page, changed the commitment to once a week, and set the intention to finish a post by the end of the day on Tuesday(Today) and to tell you what I had done. Sometimes, in the present moment, you may realize something in your life is not working, and there needs to be an adjustment. Choosing to engage that inner-sourced truth through action and honesty creates the possibility for others to connect to your experience.
I could have set the deadline to once a year, and it wouldn’t have mattered. Any external meaning I placed on what the amount of time meant would just be a story of mine. The access to feeling connected to you, whoever is reading this blog is sourced from two actions.
- Admitting to you that I changed the About Section
- Writing this post, right now
The practice I offer to you this week to keep in the back of your mindfulness as each moment happens, is the following;
Notice when any practice or step you are taking in your life starts to feel very overwhelming.
What you are making it mean, what significance are you adding to it and what is finishing this step or task going to get you.
If you feel up to it, after noticing these feelings, try talking to someone and verbalize exactly what is happening. Tell on yourself. And then, after you have become very present to those feelings, try that same task or step again just for the sake of doing it, without any attachment to the outcome. Be in the practice of taking the next step on as a part of the process, with no goal in mind.
Thank you for reading and know I am with you, taking one breathe and step at a time in THE DAILY PRACTICE OF LIVING.